Why Do I Need To Get Preapproved for a Loan?

For SaleQ: Is there any reason to get preapproved for a loan?

A: For a large purchase, such as a home or car, having that preapproval in hand before you start shopping is crucial. A preapproval is a written letter from a lender specifying how large of a loan you will be eligible for. The letter will also detail your estimated interest rate on the loan.

Here are some other key advantages of getting a preapproval:

1.) You’ll know what you can afford

Having this information in hand will simplify your search. It will also help you avoid disappointment later. Be sure to calculate other monthly costs, such as property taxes, home insurance and increased auto insurance rates when determining the amount of money you’ll need to shell out each month.

2.) Don’t get taken for a ride

When you’re unsure about how much you can spend on a car, the dealer will capitalize on your uncertainty by trying to sell you a car that barely skims the maximum amount you’ve told them you can afford.

They may also focus only on a monthly amount you can afford. They’ll then try to inflate the payment with unnecessary charges and fees only because they fit within your named payment amount.

In contrast, when you show the dealer your preapproval letter, they will have to show you cars with price tags that fit within your loan amount.

3.) Be taken seriously

A car dealer will take you more seriously when you walk in with a preapproval. Having that information in hand shows you’re ready to buy. When purchasing a home, a realtor will be able to assist you more efficiently when you know exactly how much house you can afford. They’ll also give you better service since you’re showing that you’re serious about buying a home. In fact, many realtors will only work with buyers who’ve obtained a preapproval.

4.) Know you have financing you can trust

When you show up at the car dealership with a preapproval from your credit union, you know the deal is in your best interest. Many dealers have access to several financing options and they’re almost always going to offer you options that are in their own wallet’s best interests.

5.) Purchase your dream home

A preapproval helps you stand out from the pack. If you’re house-hunting in a competitive market, having your preapproval will give you a leg up on bidding wars. A seller will be more eager to work with someone who’s already started the mortgage process.

In the market for a new home or car? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Ohio HealthCare FCU to hear about our fantastic rates on mortgage and auto loans!

Your Turn: Based on your own experience, why do you think it’s important to get preapproved for a loan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Give Your Kids the Gift of Giving

Santa ClausThe holiday season brings a flurry of frenzied consumerism, unabashed greed and endless shopping. As a parent, though, you want your kids to associate this time of year with giving and not just with taking. How can you give your kids a joyous holiday season and teach them about kindness at the same time?
The best way to do this is by actively encouraging your children to think of others. Try these activities to help bring the spirit of giving into your home this year:

 

1.) One in = one out
Is your toy chest overflowing? Do your kids have more games than they need? Institute a rule this holiday season: When you’ve gotten a new toy, choose one to give away. Set up a large box in the corner of your playroom and have your children place one toy in the giveaway box for every new one they receive. They can choose older toys they’ve lost interest in or those they’ve outgrown. When the box is full, take a family trip to the local toy drive or to a needy family in the neighborhood. Watch your kids’ faces light up as they make others happy with their thoughtful donations.

 

2.) Season’s greetings
Designate one evening this season for writing holiday cards. No, not to your family and friends – these cards are for children who’ve been stricken with illness. Set up a table with lots of cardstock and all your kids’ favorite crafts supplies. Speak to your family about sick children who might be sad this Christmas and could use a simple homemade greeting card to cheer them up. Have fun creating your masterpieces and inscribing them with positive, encouraging messages. Then, get your gang into the car and drive over to the local hospital to deliver them personally!

 

3.) Grocery giveaway
Many grocery stores hold food drives during the holiday season. Help support a local cause and teach your children about giving to others at the same time. Take your child along with you on your next trip to the grocery and have them choose one food item to purchase for the food drive. If you usually let your child pick a treat at the grocery, ask them if they’d like to forego it this time and instead buy something for the needy. Make sure your child is the one to actually place the chosen food item into the collection bin so they can personally experience the joy of giving.

 

4.) Senior moments
Does your child love performing? If you’ve got a young star at home, this is the perfect way to teach them to use their talents to make others happy. Have your child invite several friends over one afternoon and ask them to prepare a small dance or a short comedy routine. Let them dig through your costume collection to outfit themselves for their grand debut and practice their gig  until it’s perfect. Then, delivery them to the local nursing home for spreading the cheer among the residents. They’ll relish the stardom and the residents will adore the little performance. That’s a win-win all around!

 

Your Turn: How do you teach your kids to think of others? Share your best strategies with us in the comments!

 

What To Do After Getting A Raise

Q: This is the year I finally got that raise! What should I do with the extra money?

A: Beyond the money, getting a raise is a rewarding recognition that the work you’re doing for your employer is valued. It means you’re on the right path in your career. This should be one of many such events in your life where your hard work and dedication finally pay off.

Let’s not overlook the money, though. This can be a real boon to your financial stability. You could look back a year from now and see how much better off you are with a little more budgetary breathing room. It’s also possible that the money can blow right through your checking account, leaving you worse off than you were before you got the raise.

The difference between these two outcomes is planning. If you don’t have a plan for your new income, it can be difficult to resist the impulse to spend lavishly because you “deserve” it. Making a plan to invest your new bounty responsibly will keep you honest and ensure you spend in ways that match your values. Here are three steps to making a plan for your post-raise finances.

1.) Stay off the treadmill
If you started from the bottom, you probably remember a time when you had little in the way of luxuries. You went to work, came home, ate whatever was cheap and went to bed. As you started to pull yourself up, you might have added the occasional luxury: better food, a nicer car, some entertainment or comfortable furniture. While the added luxury might have been a thrill at first, it probably soon became nothing more than the new normal.

This is what psychologists call the hedonic treadmill. With greater salary comes greater lifestyle expectations. It’s impossible to get ahead if you’re always chasing the life you think you “ought” to have.

In a sense, all you’re doing by getting a raise is turning up the speed on the treadmill. You’re not actually making more progress toward your goals. To do that, at any level of income, you need to spend prudently, not emotionally.

So, when your first paycheck comes in, avoid thinking about things you “deserve.” Try to keep your non-discretionary spending, or the amount of money you have to pay for basic goods and services, the same. If you want to take your family out to dinner to celebrate, that’s fine. If you want to buy a new luxury car to reflect your new status, that’s just running faster on the treadmill.

2.) Fix the basics
There are three very obvious places to put your newfound money: paying down debt, building an emergency fund and saving for retirement. If you don’t have an immediate plan for your new income, you could do much worse than putting your money in one of these three places. This isn’t a flashy way to spend your money, and it won’t make you happier in the short term. However, it will make your life easier in the long run.

Depending on the timing of your raise, you may need to make some paycheck adjustments. While you’re increasing your 401(k) contributions, you might also want to withhold a little extra in taxes. Your old withholding was done assuming you would earn your old salary all year. If you don’t bump up your withholding a little, you might end up with a nasty surprise at tax time. That’s another reason to make tax-deductible investments in your retirement accounts. You’ll get to keep more of your hard-earned raise!

3.) Save for your values
Getting a raise is a great time to pull out your dream list. What would you do if money was no object? Would you take a trip to Tahiti? Start a small business? Whatever your dream is, you probably need some capital to get it started.

Fortunately, you’re about to get some more capital each month thanks to your hard work. The best way to get to your “money’s no object” goals is to save a little bit each month. You can do that with the nice bonus offered by your raise. In the long run, you’ll be happier with the investment in your future than you will with the little luxuries you might be tempted to splurge on today.

Your Turn: We all want to make more money. What would you do with a little extra money each month? Let us know in the comments!

Sources:

7 Easy Ways To Give Your Kids A Financial Education

Little Girl

  1. Take your kids with you on your next visit to Ohio HealthCare FCU.
  2. Let them watch you balance your checkbook.
  3. Show your kids how you pay your bills so they know that electricity, water, gas, phones and cable all cost money.
  4. Give them a budget for an item they want, and let them choose which one to buy.
  5. Let your kids work to pay for an expensive gadget or a special trip they really want.
  6. Help them open their own small business.
  7. Let your kids see you occasionally leave a store without buying anything so they learn to fight the impulse to buy, buy, buy.
Your Turn: How do you teach your kids to value money? Share your best techniques with us in the comments!

Protecting Yourself Against Card Cracking Scams

Fraud PreventionIn a recent scam targeting cash-strapped millennials, fraudsters are once again cashing in on people’s naivety and goodwill. Only this time they’re using social media to make it happen.

What makes the scam especially cruel is that fraudsters specifically look for victims who are short on funds, such as students with large loans hanging over their heads, struggling single parents or young professionals searching for a job. People who are desperate for cash also prove to be desperate enough to believe almost anything that will help earn them a quick buck. Unfortunately, this vulnerability, coupled with the broad reach and easy plundering that scammers are granted by using social media, has made card cracking more successful in luring victims than many other scams.

Card cracking scams start with an innocent-looking social media post that appears like the dozens you scroll through every day. The post may show up on the victim’s Twitter feed, Facebook page or on Instagram, and it will always showcase some form of quick cash. It might be an easy-to-win contest with a huge reward for the winner. It can be a dream job that will instantly be yours – as soon as you follow the instructions. It may even be a complete giveaway, such as a cash bonus or a gift card that you’ll be granted just for sharing some information. If you click on the embedded link, you’ll be asked for your checking account information, your PIN or your online banking credentials.

Once the scammers have this information, they can do any number of things with their prize, from withdrawing large sums of cash from your account to using your debit card number for a massive shopping spree. They may even help themselves to funds you have in your account, such as a paycheck or student loan.

In another iteration of card cracking, scammers will tug on victims’ heartstrings, claiming their personal accounts are frozen and they have no access to money. They’ll ask the victim to allow them to access the victim’s account for simple transactions such as depositing checks. Once the checks are in, the scammer will cash in on the amount, and a few days later, when the check bounces, the scammer will be long gone. This variation is sometimes played out in person, on college campuses.

In yet a third scheme, card crackers promise victims a cut of fraudulent funds if the victim allows them to use their account. Victims often rationalize this crime by assuring themselves that they’re not actually playing a part in the fraud. Of course, they will still be held accountable when the scammers are busted.
Sadly, falling victim to a scam can be especially harmful for a millennial who is just beginning to build their credit history.

Don’t be the next victim. Here’s how to protect yourself from card cracking:
1.) Never share personal information with a stranger
You’ve heard it a thousand times, but this rule cannot be overstated. Never share sensitive information with a correspondent whose identity you can not verify with absolute certainty. You wouldn’t think of giving your checking account number to a solicitor you met on the street; why would you share it with a stranger online?

Of course, victims of card cracking and similar schemes believe the scammers are legitimate. That’s why it’s important to authenticate a web address, company or offer by asking for a street address or phone number. Additionally, by educating yourself about these scams, you’ll be able to spot one immediately.

2.) When it’s too good to be true, it usually is
Remembering this rule of thumb will go a long way toward helping you recognize scammers. Free or easy money exists only in fairy tales. Don’t believe the Facebook post that promises you’ll land that dream job you’ve been searching for if you only hand over your account passwords. Ignore the offer for a free gift card and don’t believe the sob story about frozen accounts leaving people penniless.

3.) Never cash a check for someone else
You are not a credit union or a check-cashing business. If someone approaches you in person or online and asks you to cash a check for them, politely refuse. Unless you would trust this person with your life, there is no reason to believe their tale is legitimate or that their check will be honored.

4.) Report suspicious activity
If you notice any suspicious activity on your account, report it immediately. You may have fallen prey to a card cracking scam and you don’t even know it!

Scammers may be smart, but you can be smarter. When you’re educated, alert and aware, you’ll be able to spot most scams before it’s too late.

Your Turn: Have you recently spotted any card cracking scams on your social media platforms? Share what tipped you off in the comments!

SOURCES:

How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

ID TheftChances are, you or someone you know has had their identity stolen at one point or another.  It can be expensive, stressful and extremely complicated to recover from.  Here are seven ways to help protect yourself and your most important data from identity thieves.

1. Secure Your Hardcopies
Most of us think of identity theft as a digital crime, but many thieves are just as eager to get their hands on your paper documents.  While online accounts are password-protected, important paper documents are often left in a drawer or simply tossed in the trash, where dumpster-diving thieves can find them.
What’s the solution?  Buy a safe and a shredder.  What’s not shredded goes in the safe. Of course, the same level of care should go into protecting your physical credit cards.  Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. Make it a habit to check to see you have all your cards and IDs when you get home at the end of the day. This will help you be aware of missing items earlier so you can cancel lost or stolen cards before too much damage is done.

2. Examine Your Financial Statements
Reviewing your financial statements is a good practice.  Not only will this help you track financial habits, it will also alert you to any fraudulent charges.  Credit unions and banks do a lot to protect consumers from fraud and identity theft, but only you know what you purchased and what you didn’t, so look closely at those statements!

3. Choose Good Passwords
Many people have one simple password they use for all devices and platforms. This is convenient, but dangerous. Yes, there is reason to worry that having multiple hard-to-remember passwords may make it more difficult for you to access your own accounts, but potential identity thieves will have a more difficult time too. If you’re worried about remembering your own passwords, check out these easy and safe ways to store your passwords from Gizmodo.

4. Protect Your Computer
Malware is just one way identity thieves steal your data.  Invest in a good and reputable anti-spyware program to make sure your hardware is safe from invaders. Another way to protect your computer is to encrypt your hard drive. Apple computers and PCs alike will offer the option to encrypt all data in your hard drive.  Go to your security settings and choose to activate the encryption option.

5. Be Aware of Suspicious Emails and Websites
If an email looks suspicious, it probably is. Make your email inbox a tightly curated collection.  If you have too many promotional emails, start clicking the unsubscribe button.  This will help you spot suspicious, unsolicited mails.

The same goes for websites.  Your browser or antivirus software may try and warn you about suspicious websites before you enter them.  Don’t disregard those warnings.

6. Use Two-Factor Identification
The most convenient option is not always the most secure, but given the choice between convenience and security, your best bet is the more secure one.  Two-factor identification for email accounts and other important online accounts will add an extra step to the security process for log-ins, most often making use of your phone number as well.

7. Secure Your Wi-Fi and Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is often insecure and can be a great way for thieves to get to your data.  Steer clear if you can. If you have no choice, be sure to avoid all online banking or password logins while using public Wi-Fi.

Additionally, be sure to secure your own home Wi-Fi with a unique and hard-to-guess password.

Surviving the Holidays With Your Sanity Intact

Gift WrappingThe holiday season is a special time. With Charlie Brown on TV and carols on the radio, and an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get carried away.  The pressure to over-shop and overspend when you’re rushing to buy everything on your list can be overwhelming. No worries, though; we’ve got you covered! Read on for fantastic pre-and post-holiday tips to ensure you’ll have a holly, jolly December without breaking the bank.

6 Pre-Holidays Tips

1. Revise your gift list
Gift giving is a treasured tradition, but chances are, lots of the people you exchange gifts with would be as relieved as you’d be to be taken off your list. Narrow down your gift list. Talk to coworkers and acquaintances about just exchanging cards this year, or make a deal to only exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts. This way, you can focus on buying special gifts for those closest to you instead of generic gifts for everyone you’ve ever met and their cousins, too.

2. Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa
Still got a list that’s a mile long? Try one of these creative solutions! A Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa activity not only saves money and stress, it adds a bit of intrigue and playfulness to the holiday. These swaps are great for family gatherings, office parties and neighborhood get-togethers.  Everyone involved only needs to bring a single gift – and it’s always fun.

Set a reasonable price cap on gifts so no one ends up leaving with a candy cane while the person next to them hauls off a flat-screen TV.  You can check out online tips for organizing a fun and affordable Yankee Swap or Secret Santa.

3. Bake holiday treats
Another great way to reduce the financial weight of your gift list is to break out the baking supplies and start whipping up your own holiday treats instead of buying gifts. It’s hard to know exactly what your friend will like as a gift, but no one turns down a tin of homemade holiday cookies! Use your favorite traditional recipes, or try something new and different.

4. Make a budget and stick to it
This tip sounds a bit obvious.  After all, we all plan to stick to a budget, right?  But make this the year it really happens! Don’t set yourself a ballpark budget.  Set an absolute limit to how much you will spend on the holidays this season.  This will encourage you to plan your spending rather than grabbing impulse items as you move through a store.  It will also encourage you to look for great deals, which brings us to our next tip.

5. Make use of holiday deals….but don’t get distracted
It’s easy to become hypnotized by deals. Prices drop and we go wild, spending more than we originally intended because we don’t want to miss out on those “crazy, low holiday prices.” Take a deep breath.  Make use of these deals wisely by buying items on your list at a discounted price.  But don’t be tantalized by the deals to the point that you buy things you don’t really need….or even want.

6. Rethink giving
We know that the holidays are all about giving – but giving doesn’t need to mean spending money.  Instead of running to the mall again, think of other ways you can give that will help improve your community, make the world a better place, and truly brighten someone’s holiday. It’s the perfect time of year to volunteer at local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and charity organizations. This kind of giving doesn’t cost a dime, but can be a memorable and significant experience for all involved.

To find local volunteer opportunities, click here.

2 Post-Holiday Tips

1. Use those gift cards
Gift cards are a typical holiday gift, but many people forget they have them, and they go unused. Put all of your gift cards in your wallet and spend them creatively.  Maybe you don’t care for coffee on the go, but you can buy a package of ground coffee beans at Starbucks and use it at home.  Use that iTunes gift card to rent a movie instead of taking the family out.  Whatever it might be, use these gift cards and appreciate them for what they are – money in your wallet.

2. Invest in next year’s regifting effort
In addition to gift cards, you’ll probably find yourself with a bunch of gifts you don’t really want.  Some of these can be saved and re-gifted next year or used as birthday gifts throughout the year – scented candles, bottles of wine, bath products, etc.  Even if you don’t actually want it, you can find someone else who does!

How do you get through the holiday season? Share your best financial survival tips with us in the comments!