The Benefits of Using Mobile Payments

Why fumble for your wallet at checkout when you can just pay by using your phone?

With more than 81% of Americans owning smartphones, contactless payments by digital wallet and mobile payment apps are now more popular than ever. Contactless payment is also becoming increasingly available at checkout counters across the country, with six in every 10 retailers accepting digital payments, according to research by the National Retail Federation.

Switching over to paying for your daily purchases with a digital wallet is simple. You’ll need to choose between popular mobile payment apps, like Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. All of these apps are similar, but Google Pay is your app of choice for all Android phones, Apple Pay works with recent Apple devices, and Samsung Pay offers the widest acceptance of all digital wallet apps. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll need to load your credit union credit and debit card information and then finish setting up the app with your personal authentication process. When this step is complete, your app is ready for use.

Here are some of the benefits of using mobile payments.

Convenience

The biggest and most obvious draw of mobile payments is their incredible convenience. No more pawing through cards at the checkout counter while the people standing in line behind you are growing impatient. No more hesitating over a stack of cash. Just pull out your phone, open your digital wallet app and tap or wave your phone near the payment-enabled terminal. It’s that easy.

Security

Using a mobile payment app to complete a purchase has several security advantages over traditional payment methods.

First, it eliminates the need to carry around cash or credit cards, which always has the risk of being stolen or lost. Misplaced credit cards in particular can be a nightmare for consumers, making them vulnerable to full-blown identity theft.

Second, mobile-payment apps use extra security measures to protect the user’s data, such as encrypting all personal information and utilizing bio-metric authentication features, like fingerprint scans and facial recognition.

Finally, each transaction that takes place over a mobile payment app is tokenized. This involves a one-time code generated by the payment terminal, or a “token.”  The token is used to complete the transaction in place of the buyer’s actual payment information. The token cannot be used for any other transaction and is effectively useless if hacked. The buyer is thus protected from fraud.

Speed

Mobile payments are super-fast. Instead of counting out cash or inserting a card into a payment terminal and waiting for the transaction to clear, it’s just a one-two-three tap to pay. With mobile payments, checking out in any store can take just seconds from start to finish.

Budgeting and expense-tracking

Digital wallets can be easily integrated with money-management apps, making budgeting easy. Every transaction will be instantly recorded for future reference and review. Additionally, retailers generally offer electronic receipts with mobile payments, as opposed to paper receipts which are easily misplaced.

Safety

Ever since the world entered the alternate reality of COVID-19, mobile-payment apps have enjoyed an enormous boost in popularity. In fact, retailers have seen a 69% rise in contactless payments since the beginning of 2020, according to a study done by the National Retail Federation. This is likely due to the fact that consumers are wary of shopping in brick-and-mortar locations and are hesitant to handle germ-infested cash. Inserting a debit card or credit card into a public payment terminal that processes payments for hundreds of cards a day is not much of a better option. All of this has made digital wallets the chosen method of payment now more than ever, with 67% of shoppers choosing self-checkout options from their own mobile devices over in-person payment.

Mobile payment apps enable consumers to complete a purchase without making physical contact at germ-laden terminals. There’s no need to use a wallet, cash or credit card at all. Just pull out your phone and your transaction is a quick wave or tap away. It’s the perfect way to pay for purchases without compromising your safety.

Mobile payments are the way of the future. There are so many reasons to love mobile payments. They’re convenient, secure, quick and safe.

Your Turn: Why do you use mobile payment apps? Share your favorite benefit of using digital wallets in the comments.

Learn More:
thefinancialbrand.com
mobilepaymentstoday.com
alacriti.com

What Do I Need to Know About Today’s Real Estate Market?

Q: The news from the real estate market can be confusing. What do I need to know as a buyer, a seller, or just an American citizen, about today’s real estate market?

A: Trends and stats in real estate are constantly changing, especially during the unstable economy of COVID-19. Here’s all you need to know about the real estate market today.

Is it a buyer’s market right now? 

Actually, pickings are slim for home-buyers right now, giving sellers the upper hand and driving up prices for buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), inventory was down nearly 20% in October 2020 compared to October 2019.

Low supply also means homes are on the market for a shorter period of time than what would be likely in other years. According to the NAR, in October 2020, more than seven out of every 10 homes sold were on the market for less than a month. This means buyers don’t have the leisure of lingering over their decisions and may find themselves getting caught in heated bidding wars.

If you’re currently in the market for a new home, it’s best to be prepared to change some of the items on your list of must-haves into nice-to-haves. You may also want to expand your search to include other neighborhoods or home types than you originally planned. And of course, don’t forget to have your mortgage pre-approval in hand before beginning your search. This will give you a leg up on bidding wars and show sellers you’re serious about buying.

What does low inventory mean for sellers?

An uneven balance of supply and demand that favors sellers means homeowners who are looking to sell will have more offers than anticipated. They may be able to choose the best offer for their home — perhaps even at a price that is higher than expected as well.

If you’re selling your home right now and have plans to purchase another, remember that the things making it easier for you to sell your home in this market will also work against you when you purchase a new one. Prepare for prices that may be above market value and a pressured buying environment.

Is home equity up? 

According to the NAR, home prices have swelled to a national median of over $300,000, with October 2020 marking 100 consecutive months of year-over-year price gains. CoreLogic’s 2020 3rd Quarter Homeowner Equity Insights report shows that the average U.S. household with a mortgage now has $194,000 in home equity. These factors make it a great time to sell a home.

If you’re selling your home, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced agent to ensure you get the best possible offer for your home.

If you’re planning to buy a home in this market of increasing home prices, make sure to work out the numbers and to determine how much house you can afford before starting your search.

If possible, consider choosing a 15-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage, which will give you the lowest overall price on your home.

Are interest rates still low? 

Interest rates reached record lows in 2020 and economists are predicting low rates continuing through 2021.

For buyers, this helps make homes more affordable. However, it’s important not to let a low interest rate make you think you can afford a home containing a price tag that is really out of your affordability. As mentioned, be sure to run through the numbers and determine how much house you can really afford before you start looking at houses.

How is the home-buying process different right now? 

Many parts of the home-buying process are now being done virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. Some sellers are only offering virtual tours to only very serious buyers. Other parts of the process, like the attorney review and the actual closing, may be done completely virtually using remote online notarization and electronic signature apps.

What do I need to know about the real estate market if I don’t plan to buy or sell a home this year?

According to Freddie Mac, equity will likely continue to rise in 2021. But it will be at a more controlled pace. You may want to monitor how much your home is worth this year since you may change your mind about selling before the year is up.

Similarly, if you’re a homeowner with no plans to move, this can be a great time to tap into your home’s equity with a home equity loan or line of credit from Advantage One Credit Union. Contact us at 734-676-7000 or shoot us a line at news@myaocu.com to find out more.

Your Turn: Have you bought or sold a home recently? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
daveramsey.com
rockethomes.com
keepingcurrentmatters.com

All You Need to Know About Checking Accounts

The most obvious things in life are often overlooked, and your checking account is just one of them. Most people hardly give a thought to this important account and how to best manage it effectively. We’re here to change that.

Here’s all you need to know about checking accounts:

What is a checking account? 

Your checking account at Advantage One Credit Union offers easy and convenient access to your funds. The minimum balance required for opening a checking account can be as low as $25. Like most financial institutions, we also allow an unlimited number of monthly withdrawals and deposits.

Checking accounts are designed to be used for everyday expenses. You can access the funds in your account via debit card, paper check, ATM or in-branch withdrawals, online transfer or through online bill payment.

Making transactions using the connected debit card, or through a linked online account, will automatically use the available balance in your account and lower the balance appropriately.

A paper check is also linked directly to your account, but will generally take up to two business days to clear. It’s important to ensure there are enough funds in your account to cover a purchase before paying with a check.

Maintenance fees 

Many banks charge a monthly maintenance fee for checking accounts.

According to Bankrate’s most recent survey on checking accounts, only 38% of banks now offer free checking, compared with 79% in 2009. Monthly fees can be as high as $25 a month.

Interest rates

Most checking accounts offer a very low Annual Percentage Yield (APY) on deposited funds, or none at all. Institutions that offer checking accounts with interest or dividends will generally charge a monthly fee, with the fee being higher for accounts that have higher rates. They also generally require a minimum balance in the account at all times or a minimum number of monthly debit card transactions. According to Bankrate’s survey, you’ll need to keep an average of $7,550 in an interest-yielding checking account at a bank to avoid a steep maintenance fee.

Security

Funds that are kept in a checking account at a bank are federally insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000. Credit unions feature similar protection for your funds, with all federal credit unions offering government protection through the National Credit Union Association. State and private credit unions may be insured by the NCUA as well, or through their own state or private insurance. Advantage One Credit Union is insured by the NCUA to offer you full and complete protection for your funds.

Managing your checking account 

Managing a checking account is as simple as 1-2-3:

1 – Know your balance

It’s important to know how much is in your account at all times. This way, you can avoid an overdrawn account, or having insufficient funds to cover your purchases. Being aware of how much money you have will also help you stick to a budget and spend within your means. You can generally check your balance by phone [or via online checking or a synced budgeting app].

2 – Automate your finances

Make life a little easier by setting up automatic bill payment through your checking account. You won’t miss the hassle of paying your monthly bills, and you’ll never be late for a payment again. As a bonus, you’ll save on the processing fee that is often charged on bill payments made via credit card.

You can also set up direct deposit to have your paycheck land right in your account.

Finally, ask us about automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to savings so you never forget to put money into savings.

[You may also want to consider signing up for overdraft protection, or to have funds transfer from your linked savings account to checking when your balance is getting low.]

3 – Keep your account well-funded, but not over-funded

Financial experts recommend keeping one to two months’ worth of living expenses in your checking account at all times. This way, you’ll always have enough funds to cover your transactions without fear of your account being overdrawn. You’ll also be able to cover the occasional pre-authorization hold that a merchant may place on your debit card transaction until it clears.

It’s equally important not to keep too much money in your checking account. Once you’ve reached that sweet spot of two months of living expenses, it’s best to keep your savings in an account or an investment that offers a higher APY, such as a money market account or a share certificate.

Checking accounts offer the ultimate in convenience and accessibility. Now that you’ve learned all about these often overlooked accounts, let this financial tool help you manage your finances in the most effective way possible.

Your Turn: How do you manage your checking account effectively? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
investopedia.com
discover.com
bankrate.com
thebalance.com
kiplinger.com

Don’t Get Caught in a Weight-Loss Scam!

January is prime time to get into shape.

This year in particular, many Americans are struggling to shed the “quarantine 15,” or the pounds packed on during all those months when life happened over Zoom and nobody saw what you were wearing below the waist. In fact, the snack company that brings us Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers reports that sales have increased  by more than 16% since 2019. And hard as it may be to believe, at some point in the future, it will no longer be socially acceptable to attend a business meeting, a friend’s formal dinner party or your sister’s wedding while wearing sweatpants.

Unfortunately, scammers know this as well as anyone, and they are out in full force, trying to scam consumers with bogus weight-loss products, miracle drugs and more. Gyms aren’t far behind, with many of them offering misleading contracts that are impossible to get out of once they’re signed.

Don’t get scammed! Lose the pounds you’re looking to shed this winter — not your money.

Here’s what you need to know about weight-loss scams and how to avoid them.

1. Gym scams

Scams at the gym generally fall into the category of false advertising and misleading claims. The BBB https://www.bbb.org/article/tips/13250-bbb-tip-joining-a-gym urges consumers to take the following precautions before signing up for a gym membership:

  • Check the gym on BBB.org  to see what previous and current customers have to say about it.
  • Ask about a free trial so you can see what the gym is like before signing a contract.
  • Don’t feel pressured into signing a contract. A reputable gym will grant you the time and the discretion to review the contract and to make the decision at your own pace.
  • Calculate the true cost of a membership. Gyms often lure new members with low prices that are only valid for an “introductory period.” Can you afford to pay the full monthly membership when this period ends?
  • Understand the terms of the contract. If anything is vague or unclear, don’t hesitate to ask a salesperson to explain it to you.
  • Find out the gym’s cancellation policy. What happens if circumstances beyond your control make you unable to attend the gym?

Despite your best efforts, you may end up getting scammed by the gym. Perhaps the terms of your contract were ambiguous, or you failed to calculate the extra added expenses that were only tacked on after the first month. In other circumstances, gyms will automatically renew a membership at the end of a contract unless the member takes action. And some gyms tack on extra “maintenance fees” without being up front about it when the contract is signed.

If you believe your gym has acted in bad faith, you may have legal options. Several states, including California, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon and Washington, have statutes for the health club industry. Facilities that fail to comply with these laws are subject to penalties and fines. If your gym fails to reimburse you for what you believe was a falsely advertised contract, it may be worthwhile to pursue legal action.

You can also file a complaint with the BBB at BBB.org.

2. Weight-loss product scams

Bogus diet products and programs are the most commonly reported health care scams to the FTC. These can range from miracle drugs promising instant weight loss, companies paying social media influencers to promote their unproven products and even phony websites filled with fake articles about celebrities who allegedly saw amazing results with these products.

Scammy weight-loss products can be ridiculously overpriced, may contain harmful or unregulated drugs or may offer a free trial that comes with hidden charges.

Here’s how to spot a weight-loss product scam:

  • Advertised products sound too good to be true, touted as “revolutionary” or a “miracle breakthrough.”
  • Product promises a specific amount of weight loss in a specific amount of time.
  • A search of the company on the BBB website brings up negative reviews and reports of scams.
  • As a general rule, it’s a good idea not to trust weight-loss products that offer you results without requiring you to change your eating habits or lifestyle. In addition, weight-loss body wraps, patches, creams, lotions or gadgets are always scams. The FTC cautions that nothing worn or applied to the skin can produce substantial weight loss.

If you’re looking to drop some of those pounds you packed on during quarantine, it’s best to go the old-fashioned route: Eat less and move more. Keep your money safe from weight-loss scams!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a weight loss scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
bbb.org
wnep.com
stories.avvo.com
aarp.org

Five Steps to Take After a Financial Disaster

As we sail into 2021, many Americans are struggling with the aftershocks of financial disaster. Whether it’s due to a layoff, a smaller workload, medical expenses or a change in family circumstances, the financial fallout of COVID-19 has been devastating for people in every sector of the economy.

Recovering from a financial disaster, due to a pandemic or any other reason, is never easy; however, with hard work and the ability to look forward, it can be done. Here’s how.

Step 1: Assess the damage

Take a step back to evaluate exactly how much financial recovery you need to do. Are you thousands of dollars in debt? Do you need to find a new job? Do you have new ongoing costs you will have to cover each month? Are there any other long-term financial implications of the recent disaster, including alimony and IRS liens?

It’s also a good idea to review your overall financial picture at this point, including your current income and ongoing expenses.

Crunching the numbers and putting it all on paper will make it easier to take concrete steps toward recovery.

Step 2: Accept your new reality and stay calm

Shock and denial are valid stages of grief for any major loss or disaster, but in order for recovery to be possible, it’s important to reach a place of acceptance about your new reality. You can vent to a close friend or your life partner, express your feelings in an online journal or a paper-and-pen version, de-stress with your favorite low-cost hobby and then let go. Revisiting the past and constantly harping on what could have been will only drain you of the energy you need to move on.

Tim Essman, a financial professional with West Coast Wealth Strategies and Insurance Solutions in San Diego, also stresses the importance of remaining calm during an economic downturn. Don’t make any rash moves out of panic and fear, he cautions, as the best move in a financial crisis is to keep things stable until you can evaluate the situation and make rational decisions.

Step 3: Outline your goals

Before you get started on the actual recovery steps, define your primary objectives. Are you looking to rebuild a depleted emergency fund? Find gainful employment that will help bring your income back to its previous level? Pay down your medical bills?  Outlining your goals will make it easier to move ahead.

As you work through this step, remember to choose goals that are SMART:

Specific — The goal should be clearly defined.

Measureable — It’s best if there’s a way for you to measure the goal, such as dollar amounts, credit score numbers, etc.

Attainable — Set a goal that challenges you, but is possible to achieve.

Realistic — Your goal should not be completely out of reach.

Timely — A goal without a deadline is just a wish.

Step 4: Create a Plan

You’re now ready to create a full-blown plan to help you reach your goal. Your plan should consist of consecutive steps that lead to a life of complete financial wellness.

Here are some steps you may want to include in your plan:

  • Trim your spending until you can consistently spend less than you earn.
  • Build a small emergency fund to help get you through an unexpected expense.
  • Seek new employment or new income streams, as necessary. Consider moonlighting, blogging or selling stuff online for extra cash.
  • Start paying down debts. You may want to consolidate your debts with an unsecured loan to make this step easier.
  • Save more aggressively, with an eye toward your retirement and another toward a large emergency fund with up to six months’ of living expenses.

Step 5: Make it Happen

It’s time to put your plan into action. If you were careful to set goals that are SMART, you should be able to take the first steps in your plan immediately.

Be sure to review your plan occasionally and adjust it if any changes are needed.

Times are hard, but with a forward-thinking attitude and the willingness to work hard, we can all recover.

Your Turn: What steps have you taken toward financial recovery after COVID-19? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
www.thesimpledollar.com
financialmentor.com
blog.massmutual.com

Products for Managing and Tracking Business Expenses

Running a flourishing business means overseeing a constant flow of money. There’s revenue, payroll, suppliers, lease payments, taxes and so much more. It’s a lot to keep track of!  Luckily, though, there are lots of products on the market that can help you cover, manage and track your business expenses effectively and smoothly. Let’s take a look at some of these products and share some tips for choosing those that are the best fit for your business.

Business checking accounts

A designated business checking account makes a company look credible and professional while enabling it to manage and track expenses, taxes and revenue. Separate accounts also protect business owners from losing their personal assets if legal action is taken against the company. Business owners can use their checking accounts to deposit checks made out to their company and to cover business expenses, such as payroll or payments to suppliers.

Here’s what to look for in a business checking account:

  • Generous cash-deposit limit per transaction
  • Generous monthly transaction limit
  • Low or no maintenance fee and other costs
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Possible dividend rate

[If you’re looking to open a business checking account, a Advantage One Credit Union Business Checking Account can be a great choice. Our business checking account has [a low maintenance fee of $xx/month/ no maintenance fees] and convenient features like [XXX]. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to learn more.]

Business savings account

A business savings account is an account designated for funds to be used in cases of emergency or for future business expenses. The money in this account will grow at a greater rate, but access to these funds will be more limited.

Business owners can use a savings account to build a cash cushion for slower seasons, prepare for unexpected expenses or to save up for new equipment, tax payments or an expansion.  Many financial institutions also offer rewards and incentives for businesses opening a business savings account, such as cash-back programs, increased dividend rates for larger deposits and reduced fees.

Here’s what to look for in a business savings account: 

  • High dividend rates
  • Low fees and a transparent fee structure
  • Rewards and perks
  • Online and mobile banking

[Opening a Advantage One Credit Union Business Savings Account will provide you with a favorable rate of [x.x%], generous terms, and convenient features like [XXX]. If you’re ready to open a business savings account, call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today.]

Business credit card

A business credit card provides small business owners with easy and unsecured access to a revolving line of credit. Business owners can use the credit to withdraw cash as necessary, cover large expenses, make purchases, fund an expansion or meet their monthly bill payments.

In comparison to a business loan, a business credit card is easier to qualify for, but it will nearly always come with a higher interest rate. If business owners are careful only to use the credit card when it is absolutely necessary and pays the bill before it’s due, interest will not accrue. A generous line of credit can be a convenient way to increase a business owner’s purchasing power without risking any assets. Credit debt that is managed well will also build the company’s credit score and may provide the business with rewards and incentives.

Here’s what to look for in a business credit card: 

  • A low interest rate
  • Generous perks and rewards
  • A low or no annual fee
  • Interest-free introductory period
  • Purchase protection and insurance

[If you’re looking to open a business credit card, look no further than Advantage One Credit Union. Our Business Credit Cards feature a generous credit limit, easy qualifying terms, and great perks. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to learn more.]

Tax software

Tracking business expenses and marking which of them can be deducted from a company’s tax liability can be super-challenging. Tax software designed for businesses makes this task easy. Business tax software, like H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer, can track all the expenses of a business and help owners file taxes efficiently and easily. The software allows businesses to upload all relevant tax documents, provides online support from tax specialists and helps the business calculate federal — and sometimes also state — tax liability. Businesses will need to pay a fee to download most tax software programs, but the cost is more than offset by the time and money the software can save a business.

Here’s what to look for in tax software for businesses:

  • Online tax filing
  • Low monthly cost
  • Assistance with filing federal and state taxes
  • Compatibility with your devices
  • Money-management apps

Managing expenses for a small business isn’t easy. There’s payroll, suppliers, monthly bills and so many other ongoing expenses that need to be covered. Fortunately, there’s an app for that! Money management apps like Mint, Truebill and ZohoBooks allow businesses to track and review all their expenses in one convenient location. Chart expenses on colorful graphs to visualize cash flow, see where the business money is going, categorize expenses for easier tax-filing and link accounts for automatic syncing of expenditures and income. Tracking business expenses on an app also makes for easy monitoring the business via mobile device.

Here’s what to look for in a money-management app: 

  • Manageable monthly cost
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Synchronization across multiple devices

Your Turn: How do you manage your business expenses? Tell us about the products you use in the comments.

Learn More:
entrepreneur.com
investopedia.com
nerdwallet.com
patriotsoftware.com
brex.com

Don’t Fall Prey to a Holiday Toy Scam

He’s making his list and checking it twice. Unfortunately, though, the scammers making the list aren’t being so nice.

Scammers famously exploit high-stress times, and the pre-holiday shopping frenzy is no exception. That’s why the BBB is warning of an uptick in holiday toy scams which can be difficult to spot.

Here’s what you need to know about these scams.

How the scam plays out

Every year, there are a few must-have toys that make it onto most kids’ wish lists (this year’s most popular toys include a realistic toy dog and an animatronic baby Yoda). These choice picks become the hottest-selling items online and in stores, getting plucked off shelves in a wink. Unfortunately, for anyone who didn’t shop early enough, these toys soon become more difficult to find than toilet paper at the height of the COVID shutdown. The parents search desperately, ready to pay almost any price to make their child’s wish come true, to no avail.

Here’s where the scammer steps in. Armed with a bogus website and some crafty online tracking, the scammer targets the vulnerable shopper with ads and online messages to draw them to the scammers site. On the authentic-looking site, the shopper finally finds what they were looking for — the sought-after toy! Often, the toy is even deeply discounted. The purchase is completed within minutes, but sadly, the shopper’s child will not be unwrapping the much-desired toy on Christmas.

Instead, the scammer will send a cheap knockoff that doesn’t work or quickly breaks. When contacted for a refund, the scammer will either be AWOL, refuse to provide a refund or only offer to refund a small percentage of the purchase price. Sometimes, they’ll also charge an exorbitant amount of money for shipping the toy back to the company, almost making the small refund not worthwhile.

As one shopper told the BBB, she believed she’d ordered a high-quality animatronic puppy that would move and act like a real little dog.

“I wanted to get it for one of my great granddaughters,” she said. “When I received the dog in the mail, it was a small stuffed animal that you could get out of a machine at an arcade.”

Another customer paid $59.99 for a Baby Yoda toy that turned out to be nothing like it was advertised.

“It was supposed to be animated and make sounds,” the customer reports. “When I finally got it, it [was] an ugly plastic hand puppet.”

After contacting the seller for a refund, the customer was instructed to send the toy back and pay for shipping to the tune of $20 — all for a $10 refund.

Red flags

Don’t be the next victim of a holiday toy scam!

Here’s how to spot these scams:

  • The seller has a large supply of toys that are in extremely high demand.
  • The website is not secure.
  • The seller is offering a steep discount due to a “flash sale” or “last-minute” deal.
  • The seller’s website is full of spelling and/or grammatical errors.

Stay safe

Keep yourself safe when shopping online by following these tips:

  • Research before you buy. Don’t purchase an expensive item from a company you’ve never heard of before without doing some digging. Feed the company name to Google and see what the search engine has to say about it. Look up the business on the BBB website. You can also try calling the customer-service number on the website to verify the legitimacy of the company.
  • Only visit secure sites. Always look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” on the URL of a site to check if it’s secure.
  • Pay with credit. Paying for a purchase with a credit card will offer the buyer purchase protection and an easier time backing out of the transaction if it doesn’t turn out as expected.
  • Update your security software. For the best protection against scams, your computer should be using the most updated version of its security software
    If you believe you’ve been targeted by a holiday toy scam, end all contact with the seller immediately. Alert the BBB and let your friends know about the circulating scam as well.

Shop safely this holiday season!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a holiday toy scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
scamicide.com
wkrg.com
bbb.org
lpheralddispatch.com

Pass It On: Transferring Wealth, Wisdom, and Financial Smarts to Future Generations

Title: Pass It On: Transferring Wealth, Wisdom, and Financial Smarts to Future Generations

Authors: Lori B. Gervais and Roger G. Gervais

Paperback: 268 pages

Publisher: Lioncrest Publishing

Publishing date:  Oct. 9, 2020

Who is this book for?

  • Parents planning for their children’s financial futures
  • Those wanting to further their own financial knowledge and skills
  • Readers who are or will soon be starting a family

What’s inside this book?

  • Clients’ stories of talking to children about managing wealth
  • Tips on how to begin the conversation about preserving the family fortune
  • Lessons on transferring family values, as well as transferring wealth
  • Instructions on preparing children to inherit responsibility as well as money
  • The authors’ personal experiences both in growing up and in raising their own children

Lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • How to speak to children about preserving your family’s wealth
  • How to ensure your personal values concerning your money are maintained
  • How to instill responsibility
  • How to use money for creating a great positive effect on your community and future generations
  • How and why financial literacy must be addressed within the family

Questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How do I prepare my children to manage their inheritances?
  • How can I maintain my family values while also transferring family wealth?
  • How do I introduce the topic to my family?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Managing money and finances can be some of the most challenging concepts for any family to navigate. I love the way the authors break it down and give us ways to help not only as a couple managing finances…more importantly equipping us with tools to help educate our family, setting us up for success for the future.” — Tara Gundrum

“…Pass It On, provides a financial framework that all of us can customize to meet our financial and life objectives. It goes well beyond wealth management or estate planning, providing clear, practical and actionable guidance we can all apply to virtually any financial matter. A must read.” — H. Edward Wynn, author of We the People: Restoring Civility, Sanity and Unifying Solutions to U.S. Politics

“Many parents fear leaving their kids’ substantial wealth. It can be difficult to know if they will be good stewards of what you leave them. If you are looking to learn a path and framework for passing on wealth and wisdom to those you care about, you will want to check out this book.” — Timothy J. McNeely, CFP CIMA

Your Turn: Tell us how you’ve used the advice of “Pass it On” in your own life.

Tracking Holiday Spending Keeps Seasonal Stress Down

Nothing is more heartwarming than seeing your loved ones’ faces light up when they open that perfect gift you (err, Santa) gave them.

Tyler’s new bike, Olivia’s new tablet and that gift card to mom and dad’s favorite steak place all add up to wonderful holiday memories… until the credit card statements show up.

The holidays will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why most people will try even harder to make the season brighter for others. But, you don’t have to dip into Tyler and Olivia’s college savings to create a special time for everyone!

The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead: Have a set spending amount for gifts, wrap, entertaining, donations and travel.

Make a list and check it twice

Many are struggling financially this year, so it will be no surprise to those outside your family if your gift-recipient list is shorter this year. Once you trim your list, make a holiday treat or handmade token for those who got the cut. It really IS the thought that counts.

Once you have your list complete, figure out a realistic amount to spend on each person. Jot down a couple of gift ideas in your price range for that person.

Try a budgeting app like Mint to keep your spending in check. You can use Mint for regular monthly budgeting, but it also allows you to allocate more funds for holiday purchases. Using graphs and reports, it shows how much you’ve spent and how it will affect your budget in the months to come.

The iSpending app uses charts to show your expenses and how much you have left to spend, while CashTrails allows you to separate your normal expenditures from special purchases like holidays and travel.

Shopping

Due to the pandemic, holiday shopping is already in full swing. Most people want to avoid crowds, so they are already hitting the malls. Retailers are well aware of this trend, and are offering pre-Black Friday sales and discounts.

Spreading out your holiday shopping over several weeks also makes it easier on your budget. Always shop with a list and keep track of your spending. As you buy your gifts, subtract from your total budget.

In addition to shopping the sales and collecting coupon codes for online purchases, know when to buy. December is the best time to buy cars, appliances, winter clothing and electronics. Also, know how much items cost before a markdown to know if you’re really getting a deal.

It is expected that online shopping will increase by 35% this year because shoppers don’t feel comfortable being in stores. Some states still have restrictions limiting retail establishments’ capacity and store hours.

If you’re shopping online, order early and expect delays in shipping. Increased shopping during the holidays will affect already-strained delivery companies. To avoid shipping delays and higher shipping costs, shop at stores that offer “buy online, ship to store” service. This service is free at most retailers, some of which offer curbside pickup.

Get the best deals on cards, decorations and gift wrap during the days right before and after Christmas. Discounts of up to 75% off can shave a lot off your holiday budget for next year.

Entertaining

Still reeling from the pandemic, most folks will host smaller holiday gatherings this year, which will save tons on food, treats and adult beverages. Many people are still working from home, so work parties and gift exchanges also will be virtual or postponed, keeping cash in your wallet.

If you’re hosting guests, keep costs down by asking everyone to bring their favorite side or dessert and include festive recipe cards with the chef’s name.

For the adults, serve a warm mulled wine or holiday punch or make one festive signature cocktail.

Use DIY decor featuring natural items, like holly and pine cones. Gather the kids and go on a hike to find outdoor holiday decorations. Not only will it save you money, but it will also give you some stress-free outdoor time with your family.

Save more by partying without plastic. Disposable plates and dinnerware are not great for the environment or your budget.

Travel

If you must travel home for the holidays, don’t forget to figure in other incidentals beyond gasoline and the cost of a plane ticket.

If you’re traveling by car, gas prices have luckily seen a steady dip. Still, the GasBuddy app can help you find the best prices for gasoline wherever you are, and you can even pay from the app. Don’t forget to figure in tolls and any emergency costs that may come up.

If you’re flying, consider baggage fees, parking and shuttle costs and the expense of ground transportation once you arrive.

And don’t forget Fluffy! You’ll need to pay someone to take care of your furry friends. The Rover app can help you find pet care options near your home.

Charitable giving

The holidays are a time for goodwill toward all. But if your budget cannot accommodate a monetary donation, volunteer your time. If you are able to make a financial donation, be sure to check that the charity you are supporting is legitimate by consulting Charity Navigator.

Keep your holidays dollars in check, and you may have some holiday spirit left over even after the last elf is packed away and the January bills start rolling in.

We at Advantage One Credit Union wish you all a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday.

Your turn: What are your best tips for sticking to your holiday spending plan?

Learn More:
forbes.com
thebalance.com
mentalfloss.com
hgtv.ca
gasbuddy.com
www.moneycrashers

Paychecks & Balances

Rich Jones and Marcus Garrett are a dynamic duo on a mission to help struggling millennials learn to manage their money and pay off debt. Together, the pair launched Paychecks & Balances, a podcast with more than 5K followers where they share insightful tips and advice on all things financial.

Jones brings his background in human resources to the P&B community, but it’s his journey toward a debt-free life that enables him to really connect with his audience. Likewise, Garrett has paid down $30,000 in debt and understands the financial challenges facing millennials.

The finfluencers’ interview-based podcast is super popular with millennials looking to learn more about money and/or seeking actionable tips on improving their finances.

Here are the core beliefs of Paychecks & Balances:

  • Money does not have to be complicated — or boring. When Jones wanted to broaden his financial knowledge, he found the podcasts and blogs available online to be incredibly boring. He’s therefore determined to keep his own podcast jargon-free and entertaining while still providing the audience with valuable information.
  • Freedom looks different to everybody. We each have our own version of freedom. To some, it can mean being excited to go to work. To others, it can mean having the ability to travel anywhere on a whim. At P&B, no one is shamed for having a day job and answering to a boss, so long as it brings them personal fulfillment.
  • Mental health matters. Jones and Garrett are big believers in mental wellness. They freely sprinkle conversations about mental health throughout their content.
  • Diversity isn’t just a buzzword. The duo believe that diversity is key to financial inspiration and education. The P&B podcasts feature a range of guest speakers from all kinds of backgrounds and demographics.
  • Good career decisions lead to good financial outcomes. You’ll find lots of advice on acing interviews, negotiating salary and choosing the best career path on P&B.

You can tune into the P&B podcast episodes on a broad range of financial topics, check out their blog  for easy-to-read articles that pack a real punch and follow the duo on Twitter , Instagram and/or Facebook.

Your Turn: Are you a P&B follower? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
paychecksandbalances.com
izea.com