What to Do After Paying Off Debt

Depending on the amount of debt you have, paying it off can feel like a huge accomplishment. If you use your credit card regularly, paying on the bill each month may not be an activity you think too much about. If your credit card debt is on the larger side, finally paying it off can feel like a big weight off your shoulders. Besides being an accomplishment, it’s also time to be proactive so going into debt doesn’t happen again. Here are some steps you should take after paying off a large debt.

Step back and take a look. Paying down on your debt each month is something to be proud of. It probably wasn’t easy, but you did it. In order to make this happen, you probably had a budget in place that maximized your debt payments in order to pay it off. Now that you no longer need to make payments on this bill, it’s time to look over your budget again and figure out what needs to be changed moving forward. Maybe you had to cut back in other areas while you were working on paying down that debt. Or maybe there’s a big ticket item you’ve been waiting to save up for. Now you can adjust your budget and you’ll probably find that you have a bit more wiggle room.

Save money. When sacrifices are made to become debt-free, your savings can often take a hit. If things weren’t too tight while you were working on paying down your debt, it might be a good idea to take that same amount of money – but now put it into your emergency savings account. If you have direct deposit, you can even take that monthly amount and set it to go right into your savings account so it’s automatic.

Set a goal. Whether you’re thinking about planning a future vacation or making a big home improvement that you’ve been putting off, using the money you’ve already budgeted for your previous debt payments is an easy way to save quickly. Consider opening up a separate savings account just for this goal, and keep transferring the money in until you have enough saved.

Stop going into debt. Don’t pay off one large debt and then start racking up more. Every time you log into your mobile banking app or check your account balance online, let it remind you to stay out of debt and how good it feels to pay it off. Stick to your budget and be disciplined!

 Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Questions to Ask Before Applying for a Personal Loan

Personal loans are a popular alternative to credit cards, because like credit cards – they are paid in monthly installments and come with a low interest rate if you have a good credit score. From debt consolidation to paying for life events, personal loans give borrowers money which can be paid back over time. Typically, payments are the same amount each month – as opposed to credit card payments that might vary depending on your balance. Keep reading to get all your questions about personal loans answered, and find out if this is the best financial option for you before you apply.

Is a personal loan right for me?

Personal loans are a way to consolidate high-interest debt at a lower rate. A personal loan can be used for just about anything – a home improvement project, wedding, debt consolidation, or other costly undertaking when you don’t have cash on hand or in the bank. Personal loans give borrowers money up front to be paid back in monthly installments over a fixed period, usually at a rate much lower than a credit card would have.

How much can be borrowed with a personal loan?

This amount will be based on your income, employment, financial history, and how much debt you currently have.  A lender will look closely at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is the percent of debt you currently have in relation to your before tax income. A favorable DTI is 43% or less, typically.

How much should I borrow?

Just because you get approved for a certain loan amount, doesn’t mean you should accept it. You also need to look at the other items you spend money on each month. Borrow the amount you know you will need to fund what you need the loan for, and don’t acquire extra debt. For help deciding what amount you should borrow or what your monthly payments might be, check out our financial calculators. Make sure your personal loan gets factored into your monthly budget and that you can comfortably afford the payments.

How can I get the best loan rate?

Do your homework ahead of time, and shop around. Often a loan with a shorter term will cost you less over the life of the loan, than one with a longer term will – though your monthly payments will be less on a loan with a longer term. Your credit score (the number that tells lenders if you are credit worthy and the financial risk you would pose) is another important component in receiving a competitive rate. The higher your score, the better your rate will be.

Is there a way to pay off my loan faster?

If you have room in your budget, it’s always a good idea to make extra loan payments when you can. Perhaps you can make bi-weekly payments instead of just once per month, or an extra payment every so often. This will only help you pay your loan off faster and you’ll also pay less in interest. Even rounding your monthly payment up can also help you pay your loan off quicker. For example, say your monthly payment is $173. If you round this amount up to $200 you’ll continue to pay the loan down and will ultimately pay less in interest over the life of the loan. Just be sure your loan doesn’t include any pre-payment penalties before you begin making extra payments.

Can a personal loan help my credit rating?

Part of your credit score is based on credit utilization, and lenders usually like to see that you’re not using more than 30% of your available credit. If you’re planning to use a personal loan to pay off credit card debt, you can actually lower your credit utilization – which should boost your credit score. Because a personal loan is considered an installment loan, whereas credit cards are considered revolving debt – adding it to your credit profile can demonstrate that you can successfully handle other loan types.

How can I apply?

If you live, work, worship, volunteer or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – check out our personal loan options! Our personal loans have a fixed rate, start at $500, have flexible terms up to 60 months, and no pre-payment penalties.* You can apply over the phone or right online, and we even have electronic closings available.

A personal loan is a great option that can help you save money instead of going through the high cost of retail financing or racking up high-interest credit card debt. Do your research and find the best option for your budget!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Gobankingrates.com

5 Ways Being Home Can Save You Money

As the public health emergency continues, what are you up to these days – working from home? Taking fewer trips? Eating at home more? Chances are, you’re probably saving money on gas and your usual food tab.

Hopefully, there are other areas where you’ve been able to save money as well. Check out these tips below that can help save you money whether you’re quarantined or not!

Unplug It

How many devices do you leave plugged in during the day? Did you know that even in standby mode, any electronic device that is plugged in will still suck energy?

Energy.gov reports that “an appliance constantly taking in 1 watt of electrical current is equivalent to 9kWh per year, adding up in annual costs (basically $1/watt/annual). Considering how many appliances are used in an average household, costs can quickly add up to $100-200 a year.”

If you’re not using it, unplug it. Or, use a power strip that can be turned off. It’ll save you money in the long run!

Save Water

You might be tempted to throw half a normal load of wash in, but first ask yourself – are there enough dirty clothes to make it worth it or do you have an energy efficient load sensing washing machine? Another tip to conserving energy is washing in cold water when you can, since the majority of your machine’s energy consumption happens when it needs to heat the water.

While you’re home – conserve water by taking shorter showers. If each member of your family reduces their shower time by 3 minutes, you’ll save about $100 a year on your water bill.

Check Your Policies

You’ve probably seen the car insurance commercials advertising a credit to customer accounts. Check into that. Give your insurance company a call or check your account online. Most companies are giving their customers a 15 percent credit because they aren’t driving as much. In some cases, customers are getting a $150 credit added to their policy for the duration.

Don’t sleep on the chance to save some money on your auto insurance. While you’re at it, check on your other policies and accounts. You might find other places offering a similar discount to help out their customers.

Cool It Now

What is your thermostat set on? If you’ve adjusted your thermostat during the day now that you’re working from home more, you might want to tweak that a bit to offset the cost.

Find Your New Normal

We’ve all said it – “when things get back to normal.” But now we’re all in the position to redefine what normal looks like for us. Take a moment to reevaluate your priorities and budget. Are their unnecessary subscriptions you can cut? Is there a magazine, streaming service or even gym membership that is no longer valuable because you’ve found an alternative? If so, cut those from your budget and save some money each month.

Article Source: https://www.schlage.com/blog/categories/2020/05/5-ways-to-save-money-at-home.html

 

Financial and Preparedness Tips for Summer Roadtrips

Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, as bigger trips get cancelled and flights are limited – some may be considering road trips to other states as this year’s family summer vacation. While the CDC still urges limited travel, those who decide to take a roadtrip should consider the following before hitting the road:

  • What’s actually open? Planning is especially important this summer because many state parks and businesses in certain states may still be closed. Do your research ahead of time.
  • Face masks – Bring one for every passenger, and wear them in public. Even places where it looks like social distancing is in force can become crowded in a hurry.
  • Call ahead – Be sure to confirm any potential restrictions for where you are traveling.
  • Call the hotel – If you plan to stay overnight at a hotel, call ahead to make sure it is still open and will have rooms available.
  • Stop early and often for fuel and breaks, just in case. Check online to see which state-run highway rest stops are open and which facilities are operational.

Auto Maintenance Tips for Traveling by Car:

  • Bring your own protective equipment – This includes gloves for pumping your own gas, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Some gas stations/rest stops may be limited in what they have available, so be sure to bring your own just in case.
  • Prepare in advance – Be sure to stay up to date on oil changes and have your tires checked before you go. Also check your windshield washer fluid level, coolant, light bulbs, battery life and so forth. Book a service appointment for your vehicle prior to leaving.
  • Do you have a roadside assistance plan? If not, you may want to enroll in one before your trip.

Packing and Preparedness Suggestions:

  • Don’t overload your car, and store the heaviest items low (or opt for a rooftop cargo carrier).
  • Be sure to bring a car phone charger, basic tools, road flares, a flashlight, spare tire and changing kit, and jumper cables.

Did you know that First Financial’s mechanical repair coverage can help you limit out-of-pocket costs should you ever have a covered breakdown? Be sure to check it out before you hit the road this summer. To research, compare, and buy Mechanical Repair Coverage, visit creditunion.forevercar.com/firstffcu or call 855.927.0224

*Mechanical Repair Coverage is provided and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc. in all states except CA, where coverage is offered as insurance by Virginia Surety Company, Inc., in WA, where coverage is provided by National Product Care Company and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc., in FL, LA and OK, where coverage is provided and administered by Automotive Warranty Services of Florida, Inc. (Florida License #60023 and Oklahoma License #44198051), all located at 175 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago Illinois 60604, 800.752.6265. This coverage is made available to you by CUNA Mutual Insurance Agency, Inc. In CA, where Mechanical Repair Coverage is offered as insurance (form MBIP 08/16), it is underwritten by Virginia Surety Company, Inc. Coverage varies by state. Be sure to read the Vehicle Service Contract or the Insurance Policy, which will explain the exact terms, conditions, and exclusions of this voluntary product.

Article Source: Patch.com

Beware of Coronavirus Unemployment Scams

Millions of Americans have found themselves out of work as the economy still reels from the impact of COVID-19. A record number of Americans have filed for unemployment insurance in recent weeks. Unfortunately, when there’s bad news – scammers aren’t far behind. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have lost a collective $13.4 million to coronavirus-related fraud, and unemployment scams have contributed their fair share to the loss.

With a high number of individuals filling out claims, along with the overloaded unemployment websites and phone lines – it provides the perfect cover for con artists. In light of the pandemic, the federal government has also waived some regulations of unemployment insurance, including the requirement to actively be seeking work in order to be eligible for benefits. This looser criteria has only made it easier for scammers to pull off their schemes without getting caught.

Here’s what you need to know about circulating unemployment scams:

How the scams play out

An unemployment scam can involve a con artist filing in someone else’s name and then collecting their benefits or claiming to have been employed by a place of business where they have never held a job. The victim will thus be denied their own benefits.

According to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor, these fraudsters can also take the form of a scammer impersonating a government employee and offering to help the victim fill out their application form for unemployment insurance. The victim, seeking assistance with their claim – will willingly comply with the scammer who is only out to get information so they can nab the victim’s benefits. Or worse, the scammer may use this information to steal the victim’s identity.

Other times, while allegedly helping the victim fill out their forms, the scammer will ask the victim to make a payment via credit card to enable them to receive their benefits. Of course, this money will go straight into the scammer’s pocket and the victim’s unemployment claim will never be filed.

In yet another variation of the unemployment scam, fraudsters create bogus websites that look like the federal websites used for claiming benefits. Scammers use sophisticated software to create these sites and lure unsuspecting victims via social media posts or emails. Once the victim is on the site, they willingly share information and assume they are actually filling out their unemployment forms.

Unemployment scams can make a challenging situation all the more difficult by leading to theft, delaying an unemployment claim, or completely disqualifying a victim from receiving unemployment insurance altogether.

How to spot an unemployment scam

As always, arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to protect against an unemployment scam.

  • First, it’s important to note that there is no fee involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance.
  • Second, government officials will never ask you to share personal information over the phone unless a phone appointment was pre-planned and scheduled for a specific date and time. This includes a full Social Security Number, date of birth, employment history and financial information.
  • Finally, sensitive information should never be shared on a site without first verifying its security. Each state will have its own website dedicated to filing and checking unemployment claims, but you should also look for the lock icon next to the site’s URL and for the “s” after the “http” in the web address. It’s also best to visit your state’s unemployment site on your own instead of clicking on an ad or a link that’s embedded in an email.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Society is now looking toward the future while determining the next step in their new reality. Part of the recovery process involves picking up the pieces and putting personal finances in order. Scammers are out to thwart this process, but you can outsmart them. Always stay alert for potential scams, and practice vigilance when sharing sensitive information online or over the phone. Stay safe!

Article Source: CUContent.com

Coronavirus Stimulus Payments Now Arriving on Prepaid Debit Cards

Don’t throw it away by mistake!

Did you recently receive an unmarked envelope in the mail that looked like junk mail or just another credit card offer? Be sure to read and open carefully, because it may actually be your economic impact payment!

The government is now issuing Coronavirus stimulus payments via prepaid debit cards instead of paper checks in the mail, if they were unable to directly deposit the funds into your bank account. These Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Cards are sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service, managed by Money Network Financial, LLC and issued by Treasury’s financial agent, MetaBank®, N.A. If you receive an Economic Impact Payment Card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services. The VISA name/logo will appear on the front of the card, and the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. These are legitimate prepaid cards and are not a scam, so be careful not to toss them by accident!

I received an EIP Card in the mail – what do I do with it?

  • The first thing you will need to do is activate your card, either on the phone by calling 1-800-240-8100 or online here.
  • Each household will only receive 1 card and it must be activated by the primary cardholder listed on the mailing envelope (and the first name appearing on the actual card).
  • You will need to provide your name, address, and social security number to validate your identity at the time of activation.
  • You will then be asked to create a 4-digit PIN, should you choose to withdrawal cash from the card at a participating ATM.
  • Once this is all set up, you’ll be able to find out how much is on the card and start using it.
  • There is no monthly or inactivity fee associated with the prepaid card. You will not need to pay this money back and will not have to pay taxes on this money.
  • Please note that this is a government issued card, and you will not be able to load money onto the card. Once your balance runs out, the card will not be able to be used further.

How can I check my card balance?

  • Visit https://www.eipcard.com/ and login to your account
  • Call 1-800-240-8100 and use the automated phone system
  • Download the Money Network® Mobile App
  • You may also be able to check the balance by inserting the card at an ATM, but be advised that depending upon the ATM/financial institution – there may be a fee associated with the ATM balance inquiry. The above 3 methods for checking your balance are free.

How can I use my EIP card to get cash without paying any fees?

  • Use one of the in-network Allpoint Surcharge Free ATMs listed on the EIP card website or from within the mobile app ATM locator.
  • Choose the cash back option at participating merchants when used as a debit card.
  • Request a Money Network Check and cash it at select participating check cashing locations listed on the EIP card site locator when you enter your zip code.

Can I transfer the money on my card to my bank account?

Yes. To transfer to a personal bank or credit union account, you will need to provide your routing and account number for your personal account at EIPcard.com.

What should I do if my card gets lost or stolen?

Call 1.800.240.8100 right away to lock your card to prevent anyone else from using it. You can also lock your card online on the EIP card website. If you need a replacement card, there is a $7.50 fee.

For a list of other Frequently Asked Questions associated with EIP prepaid debit cards, click here.

To view the cardholder agreement online, click here.

Article Sources:

https://whnt.com/taking-action/bbb-consumer-alerts/dont-throw-it-away-irs-stimulus-card-payments-arriving-in-unmarked-envelopes/

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/economic-impact-payment-prepaid-card/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eipcard#balance