Monday, February 27, 2017

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

It seems like no one can stay healthy during this time of year. Everyone's got a sniffle or a cough, or worse ... the dreaded flu bug! These viruses have evolved over the years to be highly resistant to many of our efforts to contain them.

It may seem like we're powerless to prevent the spread of disease. Though we can't prevent it, we can help to lower the risk of spreading it around. Here are five tips you can use to beat the flu this year!
1.) Wash your hands
This is the best and easiest way to help prevent the spread of infectious disease. Your hands are the most likely means for spreading disease. You touch something with the virus on it, then you touch your eyes, your nose or your food. Next thing you know, you're coughing up a storm.
Regular hand-washing is the first line of defense. Not only should you wash your hands after using the bathroom, but also before meals and after any contact with someone who might be ill. If you work at a job that includes a lot of public contact, take regular hand washing breaks as your job allows. Scrub firmly for 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
If you can't get to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be warned that using this too much can dry your hands, leading to cracks in the skin and greater risk of disease. That's why it is wise to accompany your sanitizing with a good moisturizing lotion.
2.) Practice good self-care
Your immune system is just like the rest of your body. It takes energy to keep your body free of disease. That's energy you won't have if you're not sleeping or eating well.
Getting a good night's sleep is important year-round, but it's especially important when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious disease. Also, a diet rich in vitamin C can help keep your immune system in good shape. Citrus is an obvious choice, but leafy greens, like kale, also contain tons of the stuff.
3.) DAB - destroy all bacteria
If you've been on social media in the last year, you may have noticed a craze called "dabbing." Started by professional athletes, this pose involves tucking your nose into the inside of your elbow. It may be a little goofy-looking, but it has a fortunate, but unintended, consequence. It's the most sanitary way to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
Covering your mouth with your hands doesn't do as much as you might think. You're going to touch other things with your hands. Your elbow, though, doesn't see nearly as much contact. You can also get more complete coverage of the bits of fluid that escape when you cough or sneeze.
4.) Practice self-quarantine
If there's a rule for disease prevention that's more important than anything else it's this: If you're sick, stay home. If your child is sick, they need to stay home. Nobody likes missing a day of work or school, but the alternative means an even more widespread illness. Staying home will also give you the time and rest you require to recover more quickly, leading to more productive time when you return.
You don't do your best work when you're sick, and neither does anyone else. If you're running a fever, wait at least 24 hours after the fever has broken before returning to work. There's nothing brave or heroic about "toughing it out" and getting a bunch of other people sick in the process.
If you can't stay home, at least take steps to prevent disease from spreading. Avoid prolonged or close contact with anyone. Wash your hands and avoid touching things that other people regularly touch. Warn others that you're feeling sick so they can keep a safe distance.
5.) Avoid crowds
You might be practicing the best hygiene habits in the world, but you can't do much to control the habits of others. Wherever many people gather, disease will tend to follow. As much as possible, avoid concerts, conventions and crowded public spaces during this time of year.
Be aware that people who are traveling from afar may have different strains of the same bugs. Any time people gather from multiple communities, the chances of infection go up. If you're entertaining or traveling, double down on good hygiene habits!
Your Turn: What's your best health hack for beating the flu and other colds? Let us know how you stay safe and healthy!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It Costs How Much To Get Married!?

According to a new report by a leading wedding magazine, The Knot, the average American wedding cost has eclipsed $35,000. That's more than half of the yearly median income! Most of that spending isn't on lavish luxuries for bride and groom - it comes from the guest list. Couples are inviting more people and doing more for them, trying to create an unforgettable experience for their loved ones.

If you've got an event planned for the coming year, read on. Your bill doesn't need to be that extreme. Here are five ways to save on the cost of your big day! 

1.) Schedule smart 

Saturday is the most common day of the week for weddings. It's automatically attractive, since everyone has the day off and most churches aren't available on Sundays. Because of this popularity, venues are often more expensive on Saturday than on other days.

While the appeal of a weekend might not apply to a random Wednesday, you can pick a date that offers some of those same benefits without paying the Saturday premium. Try setting up your special day before a holiday, like July 3, or on the Sunday of a long weekend, like Labor Day. Your guests will still have time to enjoy themselves, and you can save as much as 15% on the cost of your venue. 

2.) Untether yourself

When it comes to picking a venue, the first obligation should be to find a place that speaks to who you are as a couple. Practically, though, there are several important factors that should influence your decision. Most importantly, pick a venue that allows outside vendors for food, music and photography (or negotiate with the venue you already selected). Places that do a lot of business in weddings may have existing relationships with businesses that can charge more because they're not competing.
If you can get this kind of flexibility, shop around for better prices on some of the more costly parts of the wedding. You also gain the flexibility to get exactly what you want out of these services. If you want a signature cocktail instead of a full bar, for example, contracting with an outside party may be a necessity.
3.) Keep the 'W' word to yourself
From cake decorating to flower arranging, everyone has a "special" wedding price. Many vendors know they can get away with charging more for a service if it's wedding-related than if it's for another occasion. You can catch some savings if you keep the reason for the occasion to yourself.
For example, when shopping for a dress, buying a formal gown that's not specifically labeled as a "wedding dress" can translate to savings. Getting a custom-decorated sheet cake (or buying a big cake and decorating it simply yourself) can save a few hundred dollars. By not mentioning the word "wedding," you can easily save 30% at various vendors.
4.) Put your guests to work
The biggest costs for most wedding-related items is in labor. When you pay for flower arrangements, you're paying about 10% for the flowers and 90% for the florist's time. The same is true for cake decorating and place setting. Instead of hiring professionals, consider putting your guests to work.
It may seem awkward, but many wedding guests would love the opportunity to feel like they contributed to your special day. They get the feeling of participating actively in making your event a success, and you get to save a few bucks on nearly every service. It's a win-win!
5.) Spread out the cost by using a savings club account
One of the biggest challenges for newlyweds is coming up with that much money all at once. All the wedding bills come due at the same time. For many couples, that means using consumer debt to finance the whole cost of their wedding. Doing so can make your dream wedding all the more unaffordable, as interest and financing charges add up.
Instead, consider setting up a club account to help defray costs. Set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account into a dividend-bearing savings account. When the bills start coming in for the big day, you'll have money set aside to defray the costs. Remember, a dollar you don't have to finance is a dollar you don't pay interest on. Even if you can't absorb the whole cost of the event out of savings, why not borrow less?
Your Turn: What are your best cost-saving wedding hacks? Share your wisdom in the comments!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Personal Loans: The Swiss Army Knife Of Personal Finance

There's that old saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." Turns out, it's not just lunches that aren't free. Pretty much everything costs money, and it's often more than you'd expect it to be.

You can easily plan and save for some expenses, while some come up out of nowhere. For those things, you need to borrow, and a great way to borrow is with a personal loan. Consider these uses for a personal loan. If you have one of these events coming up, you may want to consider a personal loan to finance them. 

1.) Weddings 

Love knows no season. When the time is right to get married, it doesn't matter if a few more months of saving would make a difference. Timing is everything! If you or your child is dedicated to hosting a spring wedding, it's just not possible to pay for it with a Christmas bonus.

The average wedding costs just over $30,000, which makes it too much for a single credit card, and the interest you'd pay would make it incredibly more expensive. Even single vendor costs, like event space or catering, may require separate financing. A personal loan will net you a better repayment plan and a better interest rate.

You may even be able to bring the price of those transactions down. Rather than putting a deposit down with a credit card, you can offer to pay more of the total cost up front in exchange for a reduced bill. Caterers, tailors and other small business owners are likely to appreciate the simplification of their cash flow. They can pay their employees and purchase supplies without going into debt themselves. They may be willing to pass those savings on to you. 

2.) Adoption 

Adopting a child is a fantastic way to show your love to the next generation. It can also be very expensive due to screenings and fees that stand between you and your child. Realistically, costs could be as high as $50,000 to adopt a child in the US, and even more to adopt an infant from overseas.

Obtaining financing for this process can be very difficult. Unlike traditional big expenses, there's no collateral. No one can repossess your child if you fall behind on your loans. Traditional sources of financing are out the window.

Fortunately, a personal loan can make this process a reality. Because the terms tend to be short, you can have your loan paid off long before you start thinking about college costs for your new bundle of joy! 

3.) Short-term house sales 

The success of shows like "Love it or List it" and other fast-paced remodeling displays has inspired a new generation of people to pick up properties, fix them up and sell them for a profit. For those who are handy and love remodeling, it can be a dream hobby. It can even turn into a full-time job! There's just one problem: capital.

When you buy a house to sell again, it's likely that you're borrowing as much as you can to pay for the property. That doesn't leave much left over for new fixtures, paint, or repairs. Some of that can be done cheaply enough, but much of it will require capital. Since you don't have much equity in the property, borrowing against it isn't a real possibility.

A personal loan can be the answer. With affordable rates and flexible repayment terms, a personal loan can help you finance those value-boosting improvements. Best of all, when you sell the house, you can repay the personal loan early without a penalty! 

4.) Launching a small business 

They say all you need to make it is a great idea. That's about half right. What you really need is a great idea and enough money to get it off the ground. Even the most thrifty of business owners will still face start-up costs in materials, license fees and equipment purchases. While these costs may not be much, it will be a while before your business turns enough profit to recoup these expenses.

A personal loan can broaden your timeline to profitability. Rather than being pressured to start turning a profit immediately, you can take your time and develop the business. Since your debt servicing is a fixed cost throughout the course of the loan, it's easy to plan for repayment. You can give your business the boost it needs to get firmly established, setting you up for future prosperity. 

5.) Extra education expenses 

Depending on your personal financial situation, your student loans may be insufficient to cover the actual whole cost of your education. Sure, you can get loans to cover tuition, but what about books or a computer to handle schoolwork? If you're going back to school later in life, many traditional funding opportunities may not be open to you.

In these instances, taking out a personal loan to cover the extra costs of your education can be a life-saver. Instead of paying for those costs out of pocket or with a credit card, you can pay for them up front with a loan you can budget for going forward. Many parts of life as a student are unpredictable; it's nice to have one constant month-to-month. 

YOUR TURN: What would you do with a few extra thousand dollars? Would you fix up a car? Take a dream vacation? Cover an unexpected bill? Let us know how you'd use a personal loan!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Best Times to Buy 2017

When you're mulling over a major purchase, the right price can often tip the scales. If you're patient, willing to research and time your buys just right, you can save quite a bit of green. Here are the best things to buy during each month for the rest of the year
February: Prepare for winter
Now's a great time to take stock of your existing cold weather gear. If you've got a coat that's seen its final winter, now's a great time to replace it. Retailers are looking to clear out the last of the season's merchandise to make room for spring clothes, so you can snag a deal on thermal clothes. You can also find a bargain on heaters and humidifiers to make your house more comfortable.
March: Get in shape
If you're looking to reboot your New Year's weight loss resolution, March is a great time to pick up exercise equipment at a discount. Treadmills and ellipticals are past their peak buying time, so retailers are looking to get rid of them. Sports equipment, like golf clubs and athletic wear, are also facing deep discounts.
April: Tech out!
Japanese manufacturers' fiscal year ends in March, so they're typically ready to roll out new product lines. If you're OK with being a year behind the latest and greatest, you can pick up a fully functional digital camera, laptop computer or big-screen TV in April. Tax refund-themed sales may also make it cheaper to upgrade your technological goods.
May: Around the house
Now that the weather's getting nicer, many home improvement shops will begin running sales on tools and other supplies. It's also graduation time, which means dorm-stocking essentials will get some discounts. Check out basic pots, pans and cooking appliances in May.
June: Think thrifty
Everyone's gotten a chance to get their spring cleaning done. That means thrift stores are stuffed with donated second-hand goods. Be on the lookout for bargains of all sorts, but especially for used furniture and clothes.
July: School supplies
The end of July marks back-to-school time, which means this is the month retailers start to gear up for school shopping. Look for promotions, like tax-free days, if you're in the market for a computer or peripheral. Otherwise, you can stock up on pens, paper and other standard office essentials.
August: Beat the heat
If you've managed through the heat of the summer with a busted AC, August may provide some much-needed relief. Major appliance retailers are looking to shift their inventories from cooling to heating. Look for discounts on window AC units, dehumidifiers and other cool appliances.
September: Big-ticket
The new models of most major appliances start to roll out in October and November, making September an excellent time to grab last year's model. If you need a new dishwasher or refrigerator, try to hold out until September. Also, new Apple accessories, like iPads and iPhones, typically come out in November or December, so September can be a great chance to upgrade your device, too.
October: Cars and cruises
The new model year begins for cars toward the end of summer, so there are a lot of leftovers from the previous year that need to go. Dealers are desperate to move inventory, so you can get a good price on the current year's models. October is also a quiet season for cruise lines, so many of them run specials and sales during the month.
November: Game on
Christmas season is in high gear, and major retailers are competing for gamer bucks. Expect to see the best bundles with the hottest games for the lowest prices in November. Whether you're trying to surprise a gamer in your life or just get the newest games for yourself, November is the time to buy.
December: Cheers!
In a paradox of economics, champagne demand is very high, so the price goes down. Champagne companies are competing for the New Year's crowd. If you've got a major event coming up, like a wedding or anniversary, December can be a great time to stock up on bubbly.
Your Turn: What's your best deal-nabbing tip? How do you find the lowest prices for the best stuff? Share your bargain hunting wisdom with us in the comments!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On Valentine's Day, we take time to remember those we love.  But, this Valentine's Day, I'd like you to take some time to show yourself a little love.
There are many ways to do that - taking time for yourself, indulging in a little splurge, being with friends or family, or spending time on your favorite pastime. One way that you may not have considered is by securing your financial future.

Poor control over your finances can affect your emotional well-being.  A study by Quicken found that 52% of the American workforce lives in fear that they will not be able to retire by the age of 65. 33% lose sleep over their financial situation and 20% hide their debt out of embarrassment.

So, this Valentines Day, show yourself a little love by making a commitment to get your financial life under control.  Destinations offers many ways to help you find the financial solutions you need.

  • Free unlimited financial counseling is available by phone through our partnership with Accel.  
  • We can take a look at your loans from other financial institutions/dealerships and see if there is a way to lower your interest rate and/or payments.
  • You can save systematically through payroll deduction or automatic transfers from your accounts.
  • Use loan products designed to help you improve your credit, such as our Expressway to Success and Second Chance MasterCard.
The road to a secure financial future requires some time, commitment and may involve sacrificing some things now for security later.

Posted by:
Carol Szaroleta
Destinations Credit Union

Friday, February 10, 2017

Beware The Boom: Diversify Your Portfolio To Protect From The Bust

There's always a "next big thing" in investing. In the early 2000s, it was Enron. In 2008, it was real estate. Seeing outlandish returns from high-performing sectors can lead investors to chase the herd and pour most of their capital into a narrow segment of the economy. It hasn't worked out well in the past.
The most important protection you can provide for your portfolio is a diverse range of assets. While this seems straightforward, it can be difficult to put into practice. Let's look at four ways you can diversify your holdings that may not be so obvious.
1.) A whole-market fund
Among the most popular investments is the whole-market exchange traded fund. These securities represent, roughly, a share of the entirety of a particular index. Rather than picking individual securities, you invest in a mutual fund that balances its holdings to capture the performance of an entire listing, like the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Index.
These funds tend to be insulated from the gains and losses of specific companies. After all, if one company in a sector goes down, there's more market share left over for its competitors. While that insulation doesn't allow investors to reap all the rewards of an outlier security that's performing well, it also protects investors from catastrophic loss of value. Think of it this way: The kind of economic disaster it would take to wipe out the 500 largest companies in the world would have much broader ramifications than your retirement portfolio, and even cash stuffed in your mattress would likely be worthless at that point.
Whole-market funds do well, historically, averaging around 6% growth a year. Some years will be up, and others down. However, over time, the trend line points upward. Whole-market funds are an easy way to diversify a portfolio.
2.) Diversify kinds of holdings
While a whole-market fund is a fairly diverse investment strategy, there are ways to balance the volatility of the stock market. Investing in a blend of asset classes, including bonds, provides security against the tumultuous nature of the stock market. Generally speaking, bonds are safer than stocks but offer less opportunity for growth. When stocks suffer, bonds tend to increase in value. So, holding a percentage of your assets in bonds will help protect you against the bumps in the stock market road.
What percentage of your assets should be in bonds is a difficult question to answer. It depends upon, among other factors, your age, how close you are to retirement, and your individual tolerance for risks. As a rough guideline, 100 minus your age is a good starting point. Your exact ratio will vary based upon your income and your estimated retirement age.
Like with stocks, it's safer to invest in funds that buy lots of little pieces of bonds than to buy individual bonds yourself. Individual bonds can lose value because investors doubt the ability of the investor to pay it off. Diversifying your bond holdings provides a maximum of security.
3.) Diversify your income
If you lost your job, how would it impact your retirement plans? Most lIkely, you'd have to postpone retirement for a few years, depending upon how quickly you could find new work in your industry. What if you lost your job because of an industry-wide contraction, though? It might hurt more than your present income.
This doesn't mean you should get a second job in an unrelated industry. Rather, be careful not to rely too much on stock in your employer's company. If your company experiences tough times, it might have to reduce staff AND its stock price would fall. If you're holding most of your assets in company stock, that could put you in a difficult position.
By all means, take advantage of matching funds and employee purchase plans. Be cautious when doing so, though, and be sure to keep your overall portfolio in line with your individual risk tolerance. You may like your employer, but that's no reason to trust a single company with everything.
4.) Diversify your accounts
Even the perfect blend of stocks and bonds is still very susceptible to the ups and downs of the market. Suppose you have a sudden need for the money you're saving for retirement. Perhaps you've experienced an emergency medical expense or other personal catastrophe. If all of your holdings are in an investment account, you might be forced to sell at a loss.
That's why saving in a variety of places is important. Invest in your retirement account, but don't neglect certificate accounts for mid- to long-term savings, and your share account for a rainy day fund. When your money is spread over a number of places, you can always have access to at least a portion of it when you need it.
Think of your savings like a garden. If you plant just one kind of seed, you're out of luck if it doesn't take. When you plant many different kinds of seeds, you have better chances to harvest fresh vegetables. The same is true of your investments. Putting your money in only one place is a risky strategy. Try to ensure all your bases are covered.
YOUR TURN: How do you protect your assets from the bumps and bruises of the economy? What diversification strategies do you use to keep yourself safe?