Monday, 29 October 2012 13:50
One of the things most people ask themselves sooner or later is “am I saving enough for retirement?” While the answer is always specific to the individual’s circumstances, wouldn’t it be nice to have a rough guideline to see if you’re on track? Well Time magazine recently ran an article detailing just that. Here are a few of the key findings:
- At age 35, you should have saved an amount equal to your annual salary.
- At 45, you should have saved three times your salary.
- At 55, five times your salary in retirement accounts.
- And finally, by age 67, you should have somewhere close to eight times your pay.
While there are many assumptions factored into these target numbers (you can read more about them at the link below), having these ranges can be a huge help in determining whether you’re making progress towards your financial goals. Also, if you’ve been doing your retirement planning alone, seeing where you are now can help in figuring out if you need a professional advisor going forward.
Monday, 22 October 2012 12:26
Let’s face it, there are many ways to save money when you want to buy an item. From looking online for a deal, to negotiating a better price, to foregoing the purchase altogether, we’re all familiar with the traditional methods of saving a buck. But have you ever thought about when you buy being just as important as those traditional factors? Here’s a list of items that you can save money on when you exert a little patience.
Autos: While most car experts advise buying used, if you do intend to buy a new vehicle, look at purchasing the current year model in late summer. At that point in the year, auto dealers will be looking to make room for next year’s model giving you a good shot at negotiating a favorable price.
Appliances: Early fall is the best time to shop for appliances. Also, when buying these items, consider the energy efficient upgrades you will be getting. Sometimes the least expensive model up front is not the most cost efficient choice in the long run.
Furniture: While furniture outlets often have “sales” going on year-round, there are two good times of year to purchase these items. The first, for low to moderately priced furniture, is just after the holiday season in January. The other is during July when many homeowners are preparing to sell their homes.
Monday, 15 October 2012 13:57
International Credit Union Day is this Thursday, the 18th. This year’s celebration is even more special as 2012 has been named the International Year of the Cooperative. Did you know that credit unions are cooperatively run businesses? You may be asking though, what is a cooperative? Great question! As a member of Greater TEXAS FCU, you are not a customer – you’re an owner. We follow 7 principles that govern how we do business together:
1) Voluntary Membership – When you join a credit union, you agree to be a part of an organization that works to help people, while not discriminating on a gender, social, racial, political or religious basis.
2) Democratic Member Control – Through the election of a volunteer member-only board of directors.
3) Member’s Economic Participation – Wonder what the $5 that’s held in your savings account is all about? That’s your buy-in to become an owner in the credit union. This principle also means that the more you use the credit union’s services the more you benefit through lower fees and better rates on savings and loans.
4) Autonomy & Independence – There are no outside investors in credit unions. No one gets a say that isn’t a member.
5) Education, Training & Information – Credit unions work to educate their members on how to save money and manage debt wisely.
6) Cooperation Among Cooperatives – Working with other credit unions and associations to help local communities is an important element in how credit unions do business.
7) Social Responsibility – Credit unions work to meet the financial needs of their members so they can build a better life for themselves and their families.
Monday, 08 October 2012 13:20
Did you purchase a Carfax Vehicle History Report in Texas between October 1, 1998 and December 31, 2007? If so, you are now eligible to join a class action lawsuit against Carfax Inc. A proposed settlement has been reached in the case (Davis v. Carfax, Inc) and awaits final approval from the courts early next year. Effected members should visit daviscarsettlement.com for more information on the case and to review claim options. A toll-free number has also been setup for questions and general info at (866) 220-4002.
Hat tip to: John Adams at autopi.com
Monday, 01 October 2012 13:24
It’s a given that every parent wants the best for their kids. In a recent American Express study, 91% of respondents indicated they are committed to teaching their children about financial responsibility. But with our ever increasingly busy lives, many parents are asking what specific areas to focus on. Below, are three areas to get your kids started on the right path.
- Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees (unless you’re picking apples) – Experts almost universally conclude that linking money with work (from an early age) is crucial in the financial education of children. So instead of giving out an allowance, have your kids perform reasonable tasks around the house to earn money. The key is that they truly earn it. Paying only for timely and sufficient work will instill the concept of discipline and set the right tone for when he/she enters the workforce.
- Set Up A 401(Save) – Another tip is to match a portion of any amount your child saves. Think about the typical 401(K) when structuring this agreement. One idea is to match $1 on every $5 your child saves. Whatever amount you come up with, make sure your child saves something every time he/she earns money. Establishing a sense of delayed gratification has been found to be one of the keys to success in school and early adulthood.
- “But mom, just use your card!” – No matter how much money you may earn, kids need to understand that there are limits to what your family, and by extension they, can spend. Helping to explain how a budget works, the proper use of credit and how savings pays off is really important. The best way to do this is to help your child set up their own budget. Simply help your child create a written plan that separates giving, spending and savings, then most importantly, help them to stick to it.
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:13
If you’ve ever watched one of the TV shows about extreme couponing you know that it is a lot of work. While few of us can dedicate the many hours it takes to replicate what those programs highlight, there are many avenues to find money saving coupons easily and quickly. Here are three ideas to get you started:
1) Coupon Centric Websites – Sites like Retail Me Not, Coupon Mom and Smart Source have a plethora of coupons on a large range of consumer items. From groceries to electronics, your best bet is to do a quick check on one or all three of these sites. Many times you’ll find a coupon for what you’re looking for.
2) In-store and Newspaper Ads – Yes, it’s old school but taking a quick scan of your grocery store’s flyer is a great way to find products to save on. The couple of minutes it takes to look through it can save you big over the long run. Many stores even have coupon racks at their entrance, so check those out too.
3) Go to the Source – Many manufacturers now offer coupons directly on their own website. Often times you can even have them delivered directly to your email inbox. So if you frequently purchase the same brands, take a few minutes to search their website before you buy next time. You may find coupons or, at times, even free offers as well.
The key is to spend a little time up front to save in the end. Saving two or three dollars each time you shop will add up quickly at the end of the year.
Monday, 17 September 2012 13:46
Whether you’ve been in the business world for years or are just starting out, there are certain areas of expertise which are universally useful. Investing time and money into mastering the basics of these skills will enable you to work faster and more effectively. Here are three such areas and tips on how to get started for each.
- Spreadsheet This! – The ability to manipulate data using Excel is almost universally required in business settings today. Over the years, businesses large and small have relied on spreadsheets to track, report and strategize financial performance. A great way to get started in Excel is to take an in-person class or to utilize an online learning tool such as lynda.com.
- Hear Ye, Hear Ye – While few people will ever work in a job that requires them to speak to hundreds of people at a time, the modern workplace does require good communication skills on some level. Any employee already in or looking to move into a management role, needs to have the ability to speak to their team with clarity and command. This skill set isn’t typically taught (or taught well) at the high school or even college level, in some cases. So if you aren’t a natural, that’s ok. Check out an organization like Toastmasters or attend a public speaking meetup to get more comfortable speaking to groups and to learn tips on how to communicate more effectively.
- Be Your Own Boss – Lastly, one of the most crucial skills to success in business is the ability to focus. To do that in our hectic do-more-with-less business climate you’re going to need tools to organize your work, remind you of what’s important and minimize distractions. While there is no singular tool to accomplish all those things, implementing a combination of tools can put you on the right track. For work organization, check out a mind-mapper tool to help you organize your thoughts about a given project and to strategize next steps. Electronic calendars with task reminders are key for staying on track, and using “no-tech” techniques like shutting off your email for an hour a day will help to keep you focused.
Tuesday, 11 September 2012 05:55
It seems everyone these days has a smartphone. From Androids to iPhones to the original smartphone Blackberry, the popularity of mobile technology is increasing exponentially. But what do you do with all the old technology when you buy the next big thing?
- Sell your phone for cash. For the do-it-yourself types, selling your gadget on websites like Ebay and Craigslist is the best way to go. They require more work up front but can also net you the most cash in the end. If you’d rather skip the hassle of selling yourself then consider alternative websites like Gazelle or NextWorth. There, you can get a free quote, along with hassle-free shipping and easy payment options. Lastly, a physical shop like Radio Shack or some discount mobile phone providers offer onsite cell purchase programs.
- Donate to a Good Cause. If you either don’t need the cash or don’t want to take the time to sell your old phone, consider donating it instead. There are many organizations that would happily accept your old technology. Consider places like Goodwill and Cell Phones for Soldiers for your next donation. Once caveat is that you should wipe the phone of any personal data before you donate it. See the instruction manual or the manufacturer’s website for more details on how to accomplish this. Cell Phone for Soldiers donation boxes are located at all GTFCU and ACU branches.
- If In Doubt, Recycle. If the first two options don’t work out for you, then take advantage of one of many recycling programs for used electronics. Retailers like Best Buy and Target, along with all the major wireless carriers, offer in-store recycling services. Keeping the many harmful components inside cellular phones out of landfills is extremely important and cuts down on the costs to produce new technology.
Tuesday, 04 September 2012 07:04
According to The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), auto buyers are increasingly satisfied with both domestic and luxury auto brands. The surprise leader for 2012 is Lincoln; with Lexus, Buick, Subaru and Cadillac rounding out the top five. The driving factor for consumer satisfaction, according to the survey, is increased quality. All this adds up to a great time to purchase a new vehicle. Here are some tips to make the auto buying process a little easier.
Do Your Homework – It may sound obvious, but doing research on the vehicle you’re looking for is a great time saver. Knowing what you want (year, make, model, add-ons) will help in narrowing what dealers you work with and allows you to negotiate between dealers. Remember, you are the customer and you’re buying what for most people is the second most expensive item, next to a house. You wouldn’t just wing buying a house, nor should you for car buying either.
Get Pre-Approved – Knowing what your monthly car budget is before going to a dealer is crucial. The best way to figure that out is to get pre-approved. Armed with this information, you can negotiate a much better deal. Let the salesman know up front exactly what you’re looking for and how much you want to pay. When they ask about financing (and they will) let them know you’re all set and that you want to get down to negotiating the price.
If In Doubt, Walk Away – Never, ever get pressured into a car purchase. Your willingness to walk away is the ultimate power play in your car buying arsenal. Doing the steps above will put you in a great position before you ever get to the dealer. However, unless you’re willing to stick to your proverbial guns, you will have done all that work for nothing. Bottom line: don’t put yourself in a position to regret your car purchase.
With plenty of quality vehicles out there, you should take advantage if you’re in the market for something new. Assuming you’ve done your research, gotten pre-approved and are willing to play hard ball, you can now feel confident to go get your next vehicle. Happy hunting!
Monday, 27 August 2012 12:32
Whether you’re out of work or just looking to make a move, finding a job can be overwhelming. But there’s good news. Money.com recently rated the top 25 counties in the country for job growth. Out of those, five of the top ten are right here in Texas. While living near areas where jobs are prevalent is helpful, finding one of those jobs is a whole other undertaking. Here are three ideas to help land you that next position.
1) Go to the Source – If you know what industry or a particular company you want to work for, research their open positions on their website or find trade groups that represent the industry you’re interested in. While many companies post job opportunities through search sites, some only post on their own web page. Which brings us to the next tip.
2) Get Social – Often times organizations (especially smaller companies) don’t post positions online at all, leaning on word of mouth to find qualified candidates. While this can be frustrating for job seekers, you have a much better shot at getting the job if you network your way into an interview. By using social tools such as Linkedin or even Facebook, you can let friends and family know exactly what you’re looking for. Additionally, they can let you know about opportunities you may not have even thought about pursuing.
3) Search and Employ – When the resources above don’t provide you what you’re looking for or you simply want to broaden the amount of opportunities to review, employ search sites to aggregate jobs of interest for you. Three of the better sites are: Indeed Linkup and SimplyHired. There, you can save keyword searches and have new postings emailed straight to you.
Using these ideas in concert with one another will go a long way to landing you the position you’re seeking. The most important element is to keep at it and use all the resources at your disposal continuously. By doing that, you’ll save time, effort and most importantly feel empowered.
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