Monday, December 19, 2016

6 Ways to Save More Money in the New Year

Even if saving has never been your thing and money is tight, the coming of a new year is an opportunity to change old financial habits. Here are some ways to become a more efficient saver.


1. Budget

Budgeting helps you organize your finances so you have money left over to save each month. It may seem laborious, but budgeting doesn't have to be hard. Mobile apps cut a lot of the work and can help you track spending throughout the month.


2. Pay yourself first

Firmly commit to making a savings deposit monthly, even if you can only afford a small amount. Do this before paying your other bills.


3. Automate

If you're not confident your resolution will stick or you want to simplify the process, automate your savings deposits. That way, a portion of your paycheck will automatically go to your savings account, or an amount you choose will be transferred from your checking to savings account each month. You won't miss money that was never in your hands in the first place.


4. Make your money work harder

Compound interest is the interest paid on the interest your money earns in an account, and it allows your principal balance to grow faster. To fully benefit from compound interest, consider opening a high-yield savings account or a certificate of deposit that offers higher rates than the average savings account.


5. Plug up cash drains

It's not always the big expenses that sabotage saving efforts; small expenses can add up and be a huge cash drain. To rein in spending and increase your cash surplus:
  • Shop around for the lowest possible rates on utilities, insurance, TV, internet and mobile plans. Also, make sure you get discounts you may be entitled to.
  • Check bank account statements for less obvious fees such as those for account maintenance, ATM use or having a low balance. If your accounts come with several fees, it may be time to find a financial institution that costs less.
  • Monitor daily spending and cut back on extras like lunches out, donut runs or fancy coffee.
  • Explore free and low-cost entertainment options, including parks, beaches and hiking trails, as well as local concerts, theater and sporting events.

6. Bring in extra bucks

When trimming expenses doesn't do the trick, the only way to create enough free cash for saving is to increase what's coming in. You can:
  • Sell unwanted items online or at a yard sale.
  • Cash in credit or debit card reward points.
  • Ask for a raise or for extra hours at work.
  • Take on an additional part-time job or turn your hobbies or skills into dollars through tutoring, yard maintenance, dog walking, writing, crafting, musical performance or handyman work.
The benefits of saving kick in very quickly and only get better with time. A solid cushion in the bank protects you during emergencies and provides the means to travel, buy a home, get an advanced degree, or pursue whatever other dreams you may have.




© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How to Avoid the Busy Holiday Scamming Season

You're not the only one joyfully anticipating the holiday season. Cyber criminals are all aflutter, too, as they look forward to the killing they'll make ripping off innocent shoppers like you. Here are some of the most common ways these thieves operate, because awareness can help you avoid becoming yet another victim.

Antisocial media

Beware those enticing ads that turn up on Facebook and other social media sites offering vouchers, gift cards and deep discounts, as well as the online surveys these ads often link to. These offers are often only empty promises designed to steal your personal information.

Additionally, if you receive concert, theater or sporting event tickets as a gift, never post pictures of them online. Cyber thieves spend lots of time monitoring social media, just waiting for the opportunity to create phony tickets they can resell from your barcode image. If your ticket is resold, you might just find yourself out of a seat on the night of your event. It's also unwise to post live from an event that gives criminals a heads-up that your home is empty and ripe for picking. Better to wait until the next day to post about the wonderful time you had.


Pandora's inbox

It may be a mystery to you how cyber thieves got your private email address, but it's chillingly clear they're up to no good. Your inbox may fill up with all kinds of legitimate-looking product offers and delivery notices this holiday season, but clicking on links of bogus ones or entering personal information on the linked sites can provide criminals with the opportunity to steal your identity.

Apps are far from immune

With mobile apps available for just about everything, it's a sad sign of the times that certain free mobile apps (often disguised as games) have been specifically designed to steal personal information from your phone. This is a particularly scary development since many people use their phones to secure their cars and homes. For this reason, only install apps from familiar companies and, at the very least, find a third-party review from a trusted site if you're interested in an app from an unfamiliar source.


USB Trojan horses

Lots of people use portable USB drives, which makes it all the more important to avoid those being distributed as giveaways this holiday season unless they're from a trusted source. These innocent-looking devices are often used as a method of introducing malware to computers.

Gifts that keep on giving ... to criminals

A spirit of generosity is traditional at holiday time, but if you're not careful, your donations may never make it to the needy. Fake charities that skillfully tug at your heartstrings abound at this time of year, just waiting for you to willingly give your hard-earned cash to scammers. Before donating, be sure to check out charities thoroughly, to make sure that they're not only legitimate, but also that they allocate the bulk of funds toward their causes rather than “administrative costs.”


Tips to avoid holiday scams

These strategies will also help keep you a step ahead of scammers:
  • Only shop online with reputable businesses you trust, using secure websites with an address that begins with https.
  • Don't shop or bank over public Wi-Fi.
  • Protect your credit card privacy by covering your account number with your hand when shopping in public.
  • Don't respond to suspicious unsolicited calls or emails. Only open email attachments from senders you trust, and contact businesses only through their official websites, phone numbers or email addresses.
  • Monitor your credit to catch fraud at its earliest stages.
Scammers may be smart, but you can still outsmart them. A little foreknowledge and caution go a long way toward ensuring you'll enjoy a safe and memorable holiday season.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Michigan Community Credit Union Named Member Service High Performer

MemberView, a credit union-specific member experience measurement system, has recognized us, Michigan Community Credit Union, as a 2016 third quarter top performer by outperforming its peers and earning among the highest scores in total member service experience!

We led a group of 40 high performing credit unions across the United States in providing an extraordinary member experience based on direct member feedback.

MemberView is a customizable system that allows credit union members a way to provide immediate feedback on the service they receive. Going beyond traditional transaction-based analysis, MemberView helps credit unions identify specific strengths and weaknesses in the service they deliver across all experiences and all channels.

“Here at Michigan Community Credit Union,” said Pam Thompson, Director of Operations, “one of our missions is to provide extraordinary member service. I am very proud of our staff here at the credit union for providing ‘stellar’ service to our members. Receiving the ‘best of the best’ award from MemberXP reflects our dedication and commitment to empower our members’ financial success.”


“Michigan Community Credit Union’s top scores show a real commitment to listening to members and improving the member experience based on that feedback,” said Constance Anderson, founder of MemberXP, the company that administers the MemberView program. 


Monday, November 7, 2016

Is Fall the Best Time to Buy a House?

Fall is the best time to buy

Sometimes it's smarter to buy certain items according to the season, like sweaters near the end of  winter and swimsuits in late summer. But what's the best season for buying a house?

The answer: Fall. As temperatures cool and trees shed their leaves, enough factors break in the buyer's favor to make it the No. 1 season for homebuying. Here's why.


Less competition 

Many homebuyers are families who want to minimize a move's effect on their kids' schooling. They want them to start at a new school on the first day, not midyear. And so if their spring and summer searching didn't work out, they might well wait for the next go-round. This means fewer buyers bidding on the same houses you're interested in and more negotiating power when you do. (A chart in this article shows how home sales drop starting in the fall.) 

Of course, this works both ways: Sellers might not want to uproot their families in the middle of the school year either. But while this brings housing inventory down, you might just find it easier to focus and pinpoint exactly what you really want in a home.

Sellers are more motivated

Spring and summer are the high seasons for homebuying: Days are longer, the weather's nice, and open houses are well-attended. And that means sellers can sit back and be a bit choosier with offers.

But as Labor Day recedes in the rearview mirror, sellers start to wriggle in their seats. The prospect of trying to sell during the holiday season or, more likely, waiting until the next year, is dispiriting. And so these sellers can become, in a sense, settlers — willing to reduce their prices and conditions. There is some variation by region, but overall in the U.S., prices have peaked by the end of August.

Buyers can use this increased motivation to their advantage, offering less and asking for more during negotiations.


Taxes and discounts

Buying a home costs a lot of money but comes with good tax breaks as well. The IRS allows deductions for the interest you pay on your mortgage, on the premiums you might pay for mortgage insurance, on property taxes and more, including some of these that went into your closing costs. Buying a home in the fall means seeing those tax breaks sooner, the following April.

Also, much like those motivated sellers, many homebuilders discount their inventories during this time of year to help them meet year-end sales goals.

The decision to buy requires serious consideration of where you are in life, what your goals are and how much you can afford. But if you are indeed ready, buying during the fall can be a good call. Just try to find time in between football games.




© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 24, 2016

Vote for our video to help us win $ for The Jackson Friendly Home!





Vote for our video to help us win $ for The Jackson Friendly Home!
You could win too!

We’ve entered a video into the second annual Love My Credit Union® Campaign and we need your votes to win money for The Jackson Friendly Home.


Since 1878, the Jackson Friendly Home has provided warmth, safety, and medical assistance for elderly women. Many of the ladies that come to the Friendly Home have experienced homelessness, abuse and neglect, and poor medical support. The Jackson Friendly bridges the gap for many of our senior women who believe they have no value. It provides residential care for 45 women who otherwise could not afford the cost of living at other senior housing programs. Continued support of the Jackson Friendly Home will provide the necessary services for a happy and healthy life.

The Love My Credit Union® Campaign is a nationwide video contest that highlights local community involvement by the credit union industry nationwide. The videos that receive the most votes will win a donation to their charity of choice.

If we win, The Jackson Friendly Home will be awarded a donation of up to $21,000. Plus, you could win $1,000 — $500 for yourself and $500 for your charity of choice — just for voting. Everyone wins!

Voting is easy!
  • Visit http://www.votelovemycu.org/?id=b553c386-552b-4b0c-46d7-57eaa8172349 to view our video.
  • Register to vote.
  • Vote for our video to help us win up to $21,000 for The Jackson Friendly Home.




Voting is open October 1 through December 16, 2016. You can vote once each day, so the more times you vote, the greater chance to win! And be sure to share the love — and the link — with friends and family through email and social media.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Contests open to Credit Unions and Credit Union support organizations operating in the 50 U.S. (and D.C.). Sweepstakes open to LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE 50 UNITED STATES (and D.C.) who are 13 or older. Void where prohibited. Enter Contests by: 12/15/16. Enter Sweepstakes by 12/16/16. For Official Rules, prize descriptions and odds disclosure, visit www.VoteLoveMyCU.org. Sponsor: CU Solutions Group, 38695 W. 7 Mile Road, Suite 200, Livonia, MI 48152.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Celebrate International Credit Union Day!


International Credit Union Day Celebrates The Authentic Difference
On October 20, 2016, credit unions around the world will celebrate International Credit Union Day (ICU Day).

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives, offering the same services as other financial institutions, but with a people-first philosophy. Since 1948, on the third Thursday of every October, credit unions have celebrated the principles that make credit unions the best financial partners of people all over the world.  “The authentic difference,” this year’s ICU Day theme, zeroes in on what makes credit unions different from banks, fintech startups and other financial institutions—our principles. 


Credit unions all over the world have operated according to the same core principles since the 1850s, when a group of weary German workers, tired of being exploited by loan sharks, formed the world’s first credit union by banding together to provide affordable credit to each other.
These principles are derived from the 7 cooperative principles, shared by all cooperatives. They are:  
1.      Democratic Control
One member = One vote. Whether you have $5 or $5 million, your voice is equal.
2.      Open and Voluntary Membership
Members are connected by a bond of association, fostering a sense of community.
3.      Non-Discrimination
Credit unions are open to all without regard for race, orientation, nationality, sex, religion, gender, or politics.
4.      Service to Members
Credit unions are ranked No. 1 in service in numerous surveys, because they exist to serve members, not profit.


5.      Distribution to Members
Credit unions return all profits to their members through dividends, lower fees, better savings rates, and improved services.
6.      Building Financial Stability
Credit unions are historically stable organizations. They’re owned by the people they serve, so they don’t take unnecessary risks.
7.      Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Credit unions and cooperatives share the same principles. Together, they amplify each other’s good works.
8.      Social Responsibility
Credit unions strive for social justice by committing to strengthening their communities and helping people of modest means.
9.      Ongoing Education
Credit unions prioritize financial education for their members, employees, and communities as part of their pursuit of social justice.



This is why we celebrate ICU Day at Michigan Community Credit Union.  We think ideas like people before profit, social responsibility, and financial education improve lives. It’s why cooperative banking is a key component of helping people in developing countries get access to microloans, or a middle-class couple in Jackson and/or Hillsdale receive an affordable mortgage for their first home. 

So when we wish you a Happy ICU Day at Michigan Community Credit Union, know that we’re thanking you for belonging to a movement that’s helping your neighbors—and people around the world—grow and thrive and follow their dreams.

If you have any questions about the credit union philosophy or how Michigan Community Credit Union can help you, stop by or contact us at 517.787.2060 or at email@micommunitycu.com.


Copyright 2016 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Holidays are Right Around the Corner!

Best Ways to Start Saving for the Holidays

“Christmas in July” is the name of a movie in which a man called Jimmy is tricked into believing he's won $25,000 in a national radio contest. (It's from 1940, but the point remains.) He promptly goes out and blows his winnings on a shopping spree. When the truth comes out that Jimmy didn't win, the department store owner tries to repossess all the presents Jimmy bought for his girlfriend, his mother and everyone on the block.
The movie has a happy ending — Jimmy is officially named the contest winner after all — but real life is seldom so benevolent when we overspend. Here are some steps to avoid such a predicament this holiday season:

Examine your finances 

Unless you know a windfall is coming your way, setting up a savings account dedicated to holiday spending is an excellent way to avoid running up debt.
Craft a budget to approximate what you can afford to salt away by subtracting expenses from income. It may be useful to differentiate between fixed expenses such as your mortgage or rent, utilities and car payments, and variable ones such as food, entertainment and vacations.
It also may help to review how much you spent on gifts last year. Whatever savings goal you come up with, divide it by the number of weeks left before the holidays to calculate how much to set aside each week.

Setting up the account

Once you have your target, the next step is to set up the account with your bank or credit union and decide how to fund it. If you already have direct deposit set up with your employer, it may be possible to divert a specified sum from each paycheck — $25, $50 or whatever you decide to contribute — to this account.
Automating the process makes it easier to meet a savings target while also “masking” the loss. You don't miss what you don't see.
You might also consider padding the account to go beyond gifts and cover holiday-related outlays for decorations, dining out and traveling.

Staying on track

The earlier you know what you're buying for whom, the sooner you can start monitoring prices and timing your purchases to take advantage of promotions and sales. And if you have a credit card with cash-back rewards, consider using it on holiday gifts to earn a bit on your spending.
As the holidays near, you may also wish to freeze extra spending. This could increase the likelihood you'll reach your goal and avoid excessive debt on other fronts.
If you see your budget is going to fall short of projected costs and want to avoid incurring debt, you may wish to consider paring down your list or the specific gifts you had planned on.
Now, this might sound contradictory, but if you have your plan and are sticking to it, consider using a credit card to actually make your purchases. Why? Because using a credit card can mean better fraud protection, price protection and the ability to earn rewards. When the bill comes in January, you pay it out of the dedicated savings account you'd set up.




Whatever you do, be smart and be responsible with your holiday spending, because most of us can't count on a Hollywood-type happy ending.


© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved