Some of us plan for retirement throughout our working lives. We pinch pennies, cut corners and dream big of the day we’ll finally throw off the shackles of a 9-5 life and be free to live, exploring and creating as we please. Others simply slide into retirement with very little planning and figure they’ll take it day by day. Whatever your style, you’ll need to find a way to enjoy life beyond retirement in the most fulfilling ways possible.
Ernie J. Zelinski’s classic book, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, shows readers the key to a truly happy retirement. Zelinski claims that planning for retirement goes beyond counting dollars-you need to plan for your creative outlets, leisure activities, physical well-being, mental health and social support system. In his book, he guides readers through this process, helping them create a feasible plan for retirement which encompasses every area in their lives.
In How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, you’ll learn how to do the following:
Take an early retirement
Put money into proper perspective
Generate purpose in your post-retirement life through meaningful, creative pursuits
Follow your dreams instead of chasing someone else’s goals
Take charge of your mental, physical and spiritual health
Envision your retirement goals clearly
Make your retirement years the best stage of your life
One of the most powerful tools you’ll find inside is the Get-a-Life Tree, a seven-page list of activities to keep you happy and active for years to come.
At times, Zelinski’s book is provocative and often entertaining. It always practical, though, and it is an enjoyable read with a unique message. Its reader-friendly format, fun cartoons, captivating quotations and inspiring content have made it a favorite among retirement books throughout the world.
Some readers complain the advice in the book is fairly obvious and doesn’t break new ground. Others criticize the way Zelinski makes light of the dollars and sense of retirement, claiming he wouldn’t talk so blithely about money if he weren’t financially comfortable himself.
This book might not give you a solid plan for saving up for retirement, but if you’re wondering how to spend your golden years living a happy, fun and fulfilling life, this might be the book you’ve been seeking.
Do you believe the post-retirement years can be the best years of our lives? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Is your debt shrinking? Have you gotten rid of one of your outstanding loans or lines of credit? Well, then it’s time to celebrate!
Take the time, this month, to celebrate every small goal you’ve reached on your journey toward paying down debt. You don’t need to spend much to celebrate an achievement; find inexpensive or even cost-free ways to reward yourself.
Celebrate big. You deserve it!
How do you celebrate achievements without blowing your budget? Share your best ideas with us in the comments.
Health and wealth: They’re the most basic, and yet often the most elusive, of human desires. After all, it wouldn’t help you to be sitting on millions of dollars if you were to be too weak to get out of bed. Similarly, if you were perfectly healthy but struggling with mountains of debt, you’d be far too stressed to enjoy your health.
In AgeProof, financial guru Jean Chatzky teams up with Dr. Michael Roizen to show you how you can use the same strategies to achieve and maintain both financial wellness and physical health.
The primary principle that’s threaded throughout the book is to strike a perfect balance between inflow and outflow. In practical terms, this means that, just like you don’t want to consume more calories than you burn off, you wouldn’t want to spend more money than you earn. While this is basic common sense, Chatzky and Roizen offer scientifically proven ways that readers can implement this approach and improve their behavior to benefit both their physical and financial wellness. They show readers how to beat the systems that are designed to make us fail, by automating decisions and limiting choices in the face of overconsumption and debt.
AgeProof is written in easy-to-understand language without any of the eye-glazing jargon that is common in most personal finance books. The upbeat tone and practical ideas sprinkled throughout its pages make AgeProof a quick, enjoyable book for readers of any age or stage in life.
Chatzky and Roizen believe our health and our wealth are intimately connected. They claim the sooner we acknowledge this link and learn how to manage both aspects of our lives in the most optimal way possible, the sooner we’ll be on the path toward a life of true financial wellness and physical health.
Some readers complain that AgeProof, while packed with actionable tips, does not break any new ground and simply recycles stale theories and strategies. However, most readers find AgeProof to be an enlightening and useful guide for those seeking a way to maintain their wealth and health throughout their life.
Your Turn: Do you believe there is a clear link between our physical health and financial wellness, as theorized in AgeProof? Share your take with us in the comments.
Another excellent option we offer our members to help their savings grow is our savings certificates. They are sometimes also known as share certificates, and referred to by banks as CDs. These unique accounts offer the best of both worlds when it comes to your savings. First, you’ll be giving your money a greater chance at growth than it would have in a typical savings account. Secondly, you are not subjecting your savings to the inherent risks and potential for loss that accompanies investing in the stock market.
Let’s take a closer look at the way this fantastic savings product works and why it might be the perfect choice for you.
What is a Certificate?
A savings certificate is a federally insured savings account with a fixed dividend rate and a fixed date of maturity. The dividend rates of these accounts tend to be higher than those on savings accounts and some money market accounts. Generally, there is no monthly fee to keep the certificate open.
However, unlike a savings account, your money will be tied up in a certificate. A typical certificate will not allow you to add any money to the certificate after you’ve made your initial deposit. You also won’t be able to withdraw your funds before the maturity date without paying a penalty.
Terms and conditions of Certificates
As a member of Advantage One Credit Union, you can open up a certificate today. However, there are some basic requirements that must be met before you can do so, including a minimum opening balance and a commitment to keep your money in the account for a set amount of time.
The minimum amount of funds you’ll need to deposit to open a certificate will vary widely from one financial institution to the next and also depends upon the term you choose. Some institutions will accept an initial deposit as low as $50 for a certificate. Others, such as a “jumbo” certificate, will demand an opening balance of $100,000. In general, the more money you invest in a certificate, the higher rate of interest it will earn. At Advantage One Credit Union, you can open a certificate with as little as $50 for youth certificates and $1,000 for adults. Certificate rates vary with term, check them out now.
Certificate term lengths also vary greatly among financial institutions, with most offering a choice of certificates that run from three months to five years. Typically, certificates with longer maturity terms will earn a higher rate. Here at Advantage One Credit Union, we offer our members certificates that can be opened for just six months or as long as 60 months. View our current certificate rates.
Is a savings certificate for everyone?
While keeping your savings in a certificate can be an excellent option for your money, it is not for everyone. Before you go this route, ask yourself these important questions:
Do I have an emergency fund set aside to help me get through unexpected events or circumstances?
Do I anticipate needing to access these funds during the life of the certificate?
Remember: Your money will be tied up in the certificate and you will not be able to access it without paying a penalty. A certificate works best for people who have money set aside for a rainy day and are fairly certain they will not need to access the funds in the certificate until its maturity date.
Why keep your money in a certificate?
Here are some of the most popular reasons people choose to open a certificate:
While nearly every investment carries some sort of risk, your money is always safe in a certificate. With each Advantage One Credit Union certificate insured by [the National Credit Union Administration] up to $250,000, so you can rest easy, knowing your money is completely secure.
Higher dividend rates
Certificates offer all the security of savings accounts with higher yields. It’s more for your money, just for choosing to invest it in a certificate.
Locked-in rates There’s no stressing over fluctuating national interest rates with a certificate. The APY is set when you open the account and is locked in until its maturity date. Instead of playing guessing games, you can determine exactly how much interest your money will earn over the life of the certificate the day you open it.
Here at Advantage One Credit Union, we provide a variety of products and services to meet your specific financial needs and in the most ideal ways possible. One such example is our home loans. Let’s take a closer look at this product and how its application process works.
What is a home loan?
A home loan, or a mortgage, enables you to purchase a home without having to foot all the cash out of your pocket when purchasing. You will, however, need to make a down payment, which is typically between 3.5-20% of the home’s appraised value, along with closing costs and some other fees. The lender then finances the rest of the purchase. You’ll repay the loan, along with interest, over the course of (generally) 15 to 30 years.
Are all home loans alike?
Before you get started, you’ll need to choose a mortgage type. A conventional loan will necessitate a 5-20% down payment on the home. There’s also an FHA loan, which only requires a down payment of 3.5%, but necessitates mortgage insurance. If you’re a military veteran, consider obtaining a VA loan, which lets you buy a home with zero down payment.
Once you’ve chosen the kind of loan which is best for your scenario, you may be given a choice of repayment arrangements for that loan. Here are the three common types of mortgages:
30-year fixed-rate mortgage The interest rate on this 30-year mortgage will remain fixed no matter the changes to the national rate.
15-year fixed-rate mortgage This mortgage will also have a fixed interest rate, but the term lasts just 15 years. The monthly payments will be higher, but the overall interest paid over the course of the loan will be significantly lower.
Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) An ARM gives the borrower a lower interest rate in the early years of the loan, and then a gradual increase (adjustment) in rate over the rest of the life of the mortgage.
What do I need to know before applying for a home loan?
A home is likely to be the largest purchase you will ever make. To qualify for one, you will need to prove that you are living a financially responsible life and that you can afford the monthly payments.
The primary way lenders gauge your financial responsibility is through your credit score. This number is like a grade that tells lenders how you’ve handled your past credit card accounts and other debts. It will include the length of time you’ve had your credit cards and loans open, the timeliness with which you’ve made your payments, the trajectory of your debt and the amount of available credit you might use. Most lenders will only grant a home loan to borrowers with a credit score of 650 or higher. You can check your score for free on Credit Karma. You might also consider ordering a free credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
During the time leading to your mortgage applications, make sure to pay all your bills on time, don’t open new credit cards and work on paying down overall debt. A higher credit score will help you get approved quicker and it will net you a lower interest rate on your loan.
Another crucial factor in determining your eligibility for a mortgage is your debt-to-income ratio, or your DTI. Lenders want to know how big your collective outstanding debt will be in relation to your income if you receive the home loan. Most lenders will only allow a maximum DTI of 36%. Here at Advantage One Credit Union, we allow our members to take out a home loan with a DTI of [XX%].
When should I apply for a home loan?
While you won’t need the loan until you are ready to close on a house, it’s a good idea to start the process before you begin house-hunting. Your lender will let you know whether you can expect to be approved for a loan and will provide you with an estimate of how much house you can afford so you don’t face disappointment later.
When initially applying for a home loan, ask your lender for a letter of pre-approval. This letter confirms you are pre-approved for a home loan up to a specific amount. Having this letter in hand shows real estate agents and sellers that you are serious about buying. Most pre-approvals are only good for 60-90 days, so make sure you’re ready to start house hunting before you get yours.
How do I apply for a home loan?
To apply for a home loan at Advantage One Credit Union, stop by and ask a representative to help you get started. Make sure all of your financial paperwork is in order and hold onto all important financial documents in the months leading up to your application.
To make it easier, we’ve created a list of the information and documents you’ll need:
Name of current employer, phone and street address
Length of time at current employer
Salary including overtime, bonuses or commissions
Two years’ worth of W-2s
Profit & loss statement if self-employed
Pensions and Social Security check stubs
Proof of child support payments
Copies of alimony checks
Statements for all checking and savings accounts
Investments (stocks, bonds, retirement accounts)
Proof of any gifted funds from relatives
Car loan information
You will also need to explain any blemishes on your financial record; including bankruptcies, collections, foreclosures and delinquencies.
If you’re ready to apply for a home loan, stop by Advantage One Credit Union today. We’re completely committed to your financial success.
How did you prepare for a home loan application? Share your tips with us in the comments.
Q: I’m in the market for a new home and wondering if I should push off my search until after the holidays. Is it a good idea to buy a new home during Christmas?
A: While spring and summer tend to see the highest volume of home sales, it doesn’t mean they’re the only time to buy a house. Let’s take a closer look at some of the myths and lesser-known facts about timing the purchase of a home and explore the pros and cons of buying during the holidays.
The myth about buying in the spring
Contrary to popular belief, springtime can be the worst season to purchase a home. While the longer daylight hours do make it easier to check out the exterior, shopping for a new house during the hottest real estate season can mean facing all kinds of drawbacks and difficulties.
First, and most importantly, sellers tend to mark up their prices when they see heightened demand for their homes. Also, the flooded market can lead to expensive bidding wars with buyers who are also interested in the same property. Plus, if your search is successful and you find a new home during the spring, the closing process can drag out much longer than necessary as title companies, inspectors and movers may not be able to service you in a timely manner during their busiest season of the year.
Why Christmas can be a better time to buy
Shopping for a home during the winter, and especially during the holidays, offers the following advantages:
Homes are priced to sell
Most of the houses you’ll find on the market during the late fall and early winter will be holdovers from the spring and summer season. At this point, homeowners may be desperate to sell and get their property off their hands. Alternatively, the houses may have just been put on the market because of the owner’s sudden and urgent need to relocate due to unforeseen factors like a job change, divorce or another life-altering event. In either case, the owner is looking to sell quickly, and will likely be more willing to compromise on their original asking price than homeowners selling in the spring and summer. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, home prices can drop to a 12-month low in December.
Holiday spirit makes people more agreeable
People tend to be in a more generous frame of mind around the holidays. Let this factor work in your favor by shopping for a home during the holiday season. You can walk away with a dream home at a dream price, and you may even be able to negotiate some extras, like furniture or a fresh coat of paint, into the selling price.
Fewer buyers on the market
With more people looking to relocate during the spring and summer months, you’ll have less competition when house-hunting around Christmas time. This will give you an edge in bidding wars and it will make it easier for you to negotiate to bring down an asking price on a home.
Professionals of the field are more available
December is usually the slowest month of the year for home sales. This can work to your advantage if you choose to buy a home around the holidays. Your real estate agent will likely have plenty of time to show you around since fewer other people are looking to buy during this season. The various professionals you’ll need to hire during the home-buying process-including an attorney, home inspector, underwriter and mover-will likely be able to service you promptly as well.
Before you go house hunting
While buying a house during the holidays can be a great idea, keep these factors in mind before you give your agent a call:
Daylight hours are short during the winter, giving you a small window of opportunity to search.
You won’t be able to see a home’s property in its full glory during the winter months.
Some sellers may not be too keen on throwing their homes open to viewers during the holidays.
Unexpected inclement weather may delay some parts of the home-buying process, like the inspection or even the closing.
You’ll have fewer homes to choose from when house-hunting during the winter, as a cooler real estate market means slimmer pickings.
Shopping for a new home during the holidays may not be conventional, but it can mean finding your home sweet home quickly, easily and for a far better price.
If you’re in the market for a new home, make sure to stop by Advantage One Credit Union to ask about our home loan options. We’ll help you move into your dream home with the most favorable terms.
Have you bought a home during the holidays? Tell us about it in the comments.
Now that you’re maximizing your payments toward the debt you’ve prioritized, make sure it happens by automating your payments. Set up an automatic transfer in your designated amount from your checking account or your savings account to that debt each month, and it will be well on its way to disappearing!
Your Turn: How much time can you save each month by making all of your payments automatic? Brag about it in the comments!
‘Tis the season to shop until you drop-or until you go broke. But you don’t have to overspend. There’s no need to rack up a huge credit card bill or go into debt just to cover your holiday expenses. Enjoy a stress-free season by keeping your spending in check with these six tips:
Create a detailed list of all your expenses
Don’t leap into your holiday shopping armed with nothing but a credit card. Before you hit the mall or start browsing, sit down and draw up a complete list of every holiday expense you can anticipate. Include all gifts, holiday décor, travel expenses, charitable donations and food costs. Try to keep this list as trim as possible by cutting out any non-essentials and using stuff you may already have in storage from previous years. Bonus points for any homemade gifts!
Determine how much money you can spend
Once you have all of your expenses written out, work on finding a magic number that will cover everything on your list and that you can realistically afford. Ideally, this money should come from funds you’ve set aside just for this purpose.
Divide and conquer
Next, assign specific amounts of money in your budget for each expense category and for every person on your gift list. For example, you can decide to spend $300 on your preteen daughter’s gifts and to donate $100 to charity this season. Again, make sure your numbers will work from both a financial and practical perspective.
Track as you shop
You’re ready to hit the mall! As you shop, keep a careful account of exactly how much money you’ve spent for each person and in each expense category. It’s best to use cash or a debit card when shopping, and to review your budget often to make sure you’re staying on track. This way, you’ll know how much you’re spending and you won’t be hit by awful “Santa shock” come January when you need to pay those credit card bills.
To make this job easier, use an app designed for this purpose. A common favorite is one called Santa’s Bag. The app allows you to set a budget for each person on your list and then makes tracking the amount you spend super simple. It will even warn you when you’re nearing your preset spending limit or when you’ve gone over budget.
Shop smartly and spend less
Keep your spending to a minimum by following these hacks:
Use shopping apps
Use the Coupons App and Shopular, to get your favorite retailers’ best deals and coupons delivered right to your phone.
Follow the 24-hour rule
Before purchasing anything on the expensive side, wait 24 hours. Sometimes, after sleeping on it, you’ll find that you don’t need to buy that pricey gift after all. Or, you might find the same item somewhere else at a lower price.
Shop online on Tuesday morning
Research shows this time of week is when you’ll find the hottest online deals.
Shop with a friend. Take advantage of BOGO sales by splitting the cost of a single item with a friend and each of you taking one item home.
Shop late. Everyone likes to get an early start on holiday shopping, but prices actually drop in the weeks leading up to Christmas as retailers seek to clear out their holiday inventory.
Let Advantage One Credit Union help
If you’re having trouble covering your holiday expenses, or you want to get a head start on next year’s costs, let Advantage One Credit Union help! Here are three ways we can take the financial stress out of the holiday season:
We get it. The holidays are crazy expensive. That’s why we allow qualifying members to skip a payment on a qualifying loan this time of year without hurting their credit or defaulting on their loan. It’s extra breathing room, just when you need it most!
If you can’t come up with the funds you need for the holidays, consider taking out a Winter Loan. Our fantastic terms and affordable rates make it a no-brainer!
Christmas Club Account
Spread the cost of the holidays across the year with an account created just for that purpose. You’ll set aside a little bit of money each month into your Christmas Club Account, and next year, when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have all the funds you need on hand.
Don’t let financial stress ruin your holiday cheer this year. Follow our tips to keep your spending down, and stop by Advantage One Credit Union to see how we can help!
Your Turn: How do you get through the holidays with your finances intact? Share your best tips with us in the comments.
You’ve already perfected your monthly shopping schedule to get the best possible prices throughout the year: linens in January; luggage in March; household appliances in May; patio furniture in September and wedding dresses in December.
But, did you know you should be timing your shopping throughout the week as well? That’s because each weekday brings its own deals and specials. There are some items you can get the cheapest on Wednesdays, others that are best bought on Fridays and still others that will see their biggest markdowns on Sundays.
Here’s the ultimate cheat sheet for your weekly shopping.
Sunday: Large household appliances Does your refrigerator need replacing? Looking to swap out your oven for a newer model? Home improvement stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, tend to mark down their large appliances on Sundays.
Monday: Deals on wheels and electronics If you’re in the market for a new car, hit the dealer’s lot on Monday. Car dealerships are busiest over the weekend, and the comparative quiet of a Monday will put you in a favorable position to negotiate a great price on a new car. [Don’t forget to stop by Advantage One Credit Union to ask about our auto loans before you start shopping!]
You’ll also want to check out the large chain stores for discounted electronics on the first business day of the week. Stores like Best Buy offer exclusive manufacturer rebates on Mondays, which can significantly lower the price of an expensive product.
Tuesdays: Houses, airline travel and more Tuesdays are the recommended weekday for making an offer on a house, particularly the first Tuesday of the month. This is when most sellers will review the activity surrounding their home from the last month and be more open to accepting an offer that’s considerably lower than their original asking price.
If you’re looking to fly in the near future, book your flight on a Tuesday morning. According to data analyses performed by travel-planning company Skyscanner, airlines mark down flight prices by 15-25 percent late each Monday evening. By Tuesday morning, competing airlines will offer matching or lower prices, giving you the best selection of affordable flights.
Tuesdays are also great for purchasing computers online from major retailers, like HP or Dell. Don’t look for discounted MacBooks, though, as Apple rarely marks down its products.
For a terrific way to end your Tuesday, go see a movie. Tickets to the latest blockbusters are usually discounted during the mid-week slump.
Wednesdays: Groceries, discounted apparel and fuel Forget the weekend grocery run; the best time to restock your pantry and fridge is on Wednesday. Most supermarkets roll out their new sale events on this day, rearrange their aisle end-caps and slap discounts onto perishable products that are left over from the beginning of the week, such as meat, poultry and cheese. If you can swing it, shop early to take full advantage of the sales. Feel free to load up on the marked-down perishables, which will still be days away from their sell-by date. Stick them in the freezer if you won’t use them before they go stale. You’ll also get the biggest bang for your buck in the produce aisle on Wednesdays, when most groceries set out a fresh display of fruits and vegetables.
If you’re a fan of discounted quality clothing, you’ll want to hit TJ Maxx and Marshalls on Wednesdays, as this is when these stores post their new markdowns. Old Navy also features new discounts on Wednesdays.
Unless gas prices are on a downward spiral, fill ‘er up on Wednesday! Weekly gas hikes will take effect over the weekend, often as early as Thursday morning.
Thursday: Clothing, shoes and handbags Get first dibs on weekend clothing sales at the big-name stores by hitting the mall late on Thursday. Shop for matching footwear with in-store coupons, which also debut on Thursday. Then, complete your new look with a new handbag, which see steep online discounts each Thursday.
Friday: Accessories Pick up your costume jewelry, belts and scarves on Fridays to score the best prices. According to Lifehacker, online accessories see an average discount of 42 percent on the last workday of the week.
Saturday: Books and yard sale treasures Amazon offers discounts on books and e-books on most Saturdays, so you’ll want to check out the e-tailer giant at the beginning of the weekend for the best selection at the best prices.
Saturdays are also prime time to pick up treasures at neighborhood yard sales and thrift stores. You’ll get the best picks in the early morning hours, but you’ll score the hottest deals later on in the day when the owners are itching to get rid of all their wares and close up shop.
Your Turn: Is there a weekday shopping hack that has worked for you? Tell us your secret shopping strategy in the comments.