Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Money Smart Week has officially started, therefore everyday this week I am going to post a topic to help you become smarter with your finances. To kick things off, I thought I would share some tips on how to help keep your identity safe and sound.

What is identity theft?
Simply stated, it is the theft and fraudulent use of another’s unique identification and personal information, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security number, or credit card account number, for unlawful or criminal gain.

According to The Financial Times, college students are five times more likely to become victims of identity theft than any other demographic. Security experts have proposed two reasons for this increased risk: College students are living in very close quarters, making them more vulnerable to theft in general, and most do not take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Stay ahead of the game and protect your identity with these simple, but helpful tips below:

  1. Immediately report lost or stolen debit or credit cards
    As soon as you discover your card is missing, contact the issuer immediately. Even if you think you may find it in a day or two, they often can place a temporary hold on your card to restrict transactions and give you some time to find that misplaced card. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
  2. Don’t keep your Social Security card in your wallet
    A Social Security number is all a thief needs to steal your identity. Instead of carrying it in your wallet, keep it in a safe place at home or in a safe deposit box. And of course, don’t keep the number written down in your wallet or purse.
  3. Never provide your personal information to anyone who contacts you by phone, email or any other way
    It’s easy for a con artist to pretend that he or she is a representative of an authentic business over the phone and they may even drop a name that you think is legit. Don’t give into this! Hang up the phone or delete the email immediately. If you provide personal info over the phone, do it only when you are the one initiating the call.
  4. Use online banking to check your bills and statements regularly
    Be on the lookout for charges you didn’t make and if you notice something suspicious, contact your financial institution immediately.
  5. Check your credit reports at least annually
    You are entitled to receive one free credit report from the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian every 12 months. For your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
  6. Don’t list your date of birth or your social security number on your resume
    There is no reason why potential employers would need to know this information about you at a first glance
  7. Use your ATM card and pin number wisely
    The combo of your card and pin number is like free access to all of the money in your account. Transactions on a debit or credit card can be disputed, but cash can’t often be retrieved. Never write your pin on your card or keep it with your card either.
  8. Guard your checkbook
    You may not use checks very much anymore, but if you ever notice that any of your checks are missing, contact your financial institution immediately.
  9. Select strong passwords that can’t easily be guessed
    Using your birthday or last 4 digits of your social are too obvious to use for passwords or pins. If your identity is stolen, contact your credit union and any other financial accounts you have: credit card issuers, the three major credit bureaus, file a police report and file a report with the FTC.
  10. Be aware of what you share
    With an increasing number of social media sites being used/created, a significant amount of personal information is being shared online that can be used to authenticate a person’s identity. Don’t share or post personal information online, such as your address, phone numbers, SSN, birth date, or birth place.

Unfortunately identity theft is fairly common, but it is possible to help prevent it. If you have any questions or need more information, don’t hesitate to contact us because we are here to help you!

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

How-To-Tuesday: Tips on How to Rock that Interview!

Spring semester is winding down and companies are looking to hire. If you are a recent graduate or even just a student looking to build your resume, chances are you’re looking for a job or internship to kick start your career!

Once you get an interview, you’re now one step closer to landing a job. Stay calm, and follow these simple tips on how to ace a job interview:

1.  Do your homework– One of the biggest complaints of hiring managers is that many job interview candidates know very little about the company they’re interviewing for. Research the company. Know their history, what they offer, their mission/vision, locations, etc. You can never underestimate the importance of preparation. Know the company inside and out and you should score major points with the interviewer.

2. Ask yourself questions– Getting a list of common questions for an interview is easier than ever before. Make a list of questions and write down your response for each. Then practice, practice, practice with a friend, colleague, or family member. If you are a college student, set up an appointment with your career center and have them conduct a mock interview with you. Even if you’re a recent graduate, many college career centers will conduct mock interviews to help alumni. Utilize these free services while you can! They are there to help you!

3. Interview yourself for the position-Before every interview, ask yourself: “Why am I a good fit for this job?” Identify what is unique or special about you. How have you gone above and beyond? What did you accomplish that no one else managed to do? Did you volunteer to tackle a problem and solve it? Don’t underestimate the value of looking at yourself, your skills and your accomplishments and outlining the key points you will want to share with a prospective employer.

4. Clean Up Social Media- Nowadays with our lives being exposed all over the internet, it’s easy for employers to check out your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, so police them carefully. Many hiring managers believe millennials make the mistake of posting potentially compromising content, including inappropriate photos, profanity and too-personal information.

5. Dress to impress- First impressions are everything in a job interview. Whether you are interviewing for the top job of a Fortune 500 firm or a local company, what you wear to the interview will be judged equally with your background. When selecting your look for the interview, “Dress to Impress” is always the best practice.

6. Be Positive– Even if you faced hard times at your last job, NEVER speak badly about former employers or bosses. No matter how mad the situation was, a negative answer often reflects badly on you not the employer or manager.

7. Be Confident- Being confident from the moment you walk through the door will always give you a better chance of landing the job. The key to confidence when interviewing is coming prepared and staying present, connected and fully engaged in the process and what you need to convey about yourself. Connect with your interviewer by providing helpful answers to questions and being actively interested in what they have to say. The more focused you are on what you trying to accomplish; the less room insecurities, nervousness, and self-doubt will have to creep in.

With all of these tips, you are now ready to rock that interview! Just be yourself and own it!

Good Luck!

Jessica M.

March Madness: Financial Edition

March-Madness Things are heating up with March Madness beginning this week, and many of us are scrambling to pick our favorite teams and fill out our tournament brackets. So, why not apply the same concept to your finances? Check out Financial Four, an interactive bracket developed by the National Endowment for Financial Education and the Financial Planning Association to help you identify the financial areas that are most important to you.

How to Begin:

On the interactive web page, the topics are divided into four groups:

  1. Growing Your Money
  2. Spending Wisely
  3. Protecting Your Money
  4. Learning About Money 

Rank each topic until you advance your selections to your #1 financial priority. Clicking submit shows how users’ answers compare to financial experts! Each item on the list is also linked to a helpful resource for financial information. It’s as easy as that! Interested in what your financial priorities are? Click here to play!

Now that you have filled out your bracket, what did you come up with? Is it establishing an emergency savings or using credit responsibly? Was it living within your means or ensuring job security?

Expert financial planners and advisors recommend the following as their top suggested “financial four” priorities:

  1. Live Within Your Means. This was the top choice among financial planners and advisors. Spending less than you earn and living within your income allowance is the best way to ensure you meet your financial goals.
  2. Pay Yourself First. Every time you receive a paycheck, save a certain percentage of your income before spending money on anything else.
  3. Rein in Debt. Have less than 15 to 20 percent of your income earmarked for debt payments – excluding mortgage debt. If you pay more than this, you’re in the danger zone and potentially in over your head with debt.
  4. Maintain Adequate Insurance. Ensure your financial security by having adequate insurance coverage in place for health, disability, long-term care, auto, homeowners’, and renters’ to protect yourself and your assets.

Now What?

Well now that you have filled out your bracket the only thing left to do is create an action plan! Make it a goal in 2015 to focus on your/or the recommended financial priorities, and you will be on your way to creating a successful financial future.  Easy enough right?

Share with us your final four financial priorities in a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M

13 Fun Facts About Credit Unions

In honor of Friday 13th, I thought I would share some credit union knowledge with all of you. Here are 13 facts about credit unions that you may not have known!

13 Fun Facts About Credit Unions

  1. In 1934, President Roosevelt signed into law the Federal Credit Union Act. This established credit unions as an alternative to banks to promote thrift and prevent usury during the Great Depression. Many credit unions have decades of history with members spanning generations.
  2. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives. Like other not-for-profit organizations, credit unions enjoy federal tax exemptions allowing them to offer better rates on savings accounts, lower rates on loans and little or no fees. Credit unions enjoy this benefit because they are mutually operated without profit. Credit unions do pay other types of taxes such as state, sales and payroll taxes.
  3. Credit unions are member owned. Don’t let “membership” scare you. It simply means you have a say in some of the activities of your local credit union, should you want it. It also means you are treated with the same respect as everyone else.
  4. NCUA versus FDIC: The vast majority of credit unions are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which provides essentially the same insurance coverage on deposits as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures bank deposits.
  5. Eligibility: Membership is limited, but joining a credit union is probably easier than you think. All credit unions have a field of membership (FOM) in their charters that defines who is eligible to join. This can be based on the community where you live, where you work or what associations you belong to. FOMs have expanded in recent years making it easy to join many credit unions based on where you live or the associations you belong to.
  6. Credit unions are convenient. The myth is that credit unions are junior varsity (JV) and can’t directly compete with the convenience offered by banks. Many credit unions have partnered together to form a network called, the CU Service Center (aka shared branching, sister branches, partner branches) giving you access to over 5,000 credit unions worldwide. Many credit unions also offer 24 hour access through online banking, mobile banking with deposit features, 24 hour call centers and text and email alerts.
  7. Once a member, always a member. Once you are a member of a credit union, you can remain a member regardless of what happens to your original qualifications. If you move to a new city or if you change employers, you can remain a member of that same credit union.
  8. ATM Access: Free ATM access can be as widespread as a big bank. Many credit unions belong to nationwide ATM networks. This gives you surcharge-free access to thousands of ATMs around the country.
  9. Share Account: At most credit unions, you simply need to deposit $5 or so in your accounts. But, if you close the account, you get it all back.
  10. There are about 7,000 credit unions in the United States. The vast majority of people can join a credit union and find one that meets their financial needs.
  11. Credit unions provide financial education. CU’s are passionate about providing financial education to help you and your family manage their money.
  12. You can join a credit union today! At Community 1st Credit Union we believe in empowering our employees to help our members achieve financial success! We are people helping people- rooted in our communities. Are you a credit union member? If not, apply today!
  13. Credit Unions are awesome! Need I say more?

Happy Friday!

Jessica M.

Thrifty Thursday: Shopping for Spring Break

spring-break-green-beach-sunglasses-photo

Your midterms are in full swing, your brain is fried, the travel plans are booked and all you can do is anxiously wait for Spring Break. For those of you going somewhere warm this Spring Break, you might want to take this opportunity to update your wardrobe. Just remember, updating your wardrobe does not have to cost a lot of money! Here are a few ideas to keep your new wardrobe within budget.

  • Make a list beforehand, while leaving just a little room for “impulse buys.” Decide on what would make your new wardrobe awesome beforehand. If you don’t, you might be leaving with more shopping bags than you can carry. Making a shopping list can help you avoid buying something you don’t need or actually want.
  • Take inventory of what you have. You do not need 20 new swimsuits for your trip. Repeats of what you love aren’t a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean you need one of every color. Mix and match your outfits, especially your swim suits! Keeping track of what you already have will help avoid impulse shopping as well.
  • Avoid the malls, unless you’re shopping clearance rack. There is no point in paying an extremely high price for something you can buy at another store for so much less. Stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s occasionally carry these “mall brand” items in their stores for a lower price.
  • Don’t be “too cool” to use coupons. This is an obvious one. Look online for coupons. Use your rewards card for the store. Look through ads to see when and where the sales are. Any way you can save money means more awesome clothes for you. BUT, do not open several store credit cards just because you could save 15% on your purchases. I promise you, this is a bad idea.
  • TRY THINGS ON. I can’t say this enough. Although I am guilty of breaking this rule, it is very important in saving money and time in the long run. Unfortunately, sizes are NOT universal. Size 4 jeans in one store might not fit like size 4 in another. It is important to try things on to see if they fit and if you like the way you look in that article of clothing.
  • Borrow from your friends! One thing I miss more than anything from college/high school was borrowing my friends clothes. It was so fun to just walk into your roomies closet and pick out an outfit for the day (with their permission of course)! Plus, the best part is it’s free! Check with your roommate or best friend to see if there are a few items you could take with you on spring break to make your wardrobe feel new. Just don’t lose anything or you may never get to borrow from them again!

As young adults, we do not have a lot of money just to throw away. Buying clothes, sadly, is no exception. Buy things that you like and that you can wear often by mixing with a lot of things you already have. Last but not least, remember “quality not quantity” when buying a new wardrobe!

Happy Shopping!

Jessica M.

5 Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund Wisely

nrm_1411163399-couple-with-piggy-bank

It’s that dreaded time of year again…. Tax Time! Have you filed your taxes yet? Will you be receiving a tax refund this year? If so, how you will you be spending your money. If you are planning on putting it directly into your checking account, you are on a fast path to losing track of where and what you are spending it on! Instead, get smart and create a plan for your refund. Check out these 5 tips to help you spend your tax refund wisely!

1. Create an Emergency Fund
In case of a financial emergency, it is ideal to have money saved. That way, you can get out of a situation without breaking the bank or having to turn to a loan for help.

2. Pay Off High-Interest Debt
Use your refund money to pay off that high interest student loan, auto loan, or high-interest credit card debt. It never hurts to get a head start on paying off your loans, especially ones with high interest rates.

3.  Fund an IRA Account
If you think you are too young to start thinking about retirement, think again! Saving for your retirement early is one of the best things you can do for your financial future.

4. Invest
Use the money to open a higher-interest earning account at your credit union! There are several options when it comes to high-interest earning accounts, and you can use the money to help grow your savings early.

5. Spend it on Something You Need
Are you having car trouble, did your computer crash, or have you put off dental work? You need to take care of these essentials, and now that your refund is here, you can cover the cost.

Are you getting a refund this year? What do you plan to do with it? Are you smart with your money, or do you tend to quickly spend your refund?

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas on a Budget!

Heart Bowl with Heart Sweets

Valentine’s Day is inching closer but there is no need to panic. If you’re worried that your funds can’t stretch far enough to give your beloved a Valentine’s Day to remember, realize that the best gift you can give on Valentine’s Day is letting your significant other know that they’re loved, cared about, and wanted. You don’t need expensive jewelry or a five star meal to win them over. Save your money and still have a great Valentine’s Day with some of these ideas listed below:

  1. Give them time
    If your significant other is stressed and tired from a busy work life, give them the time they desperately need to relax. Take over their responsibilities at home for the day, whether that means doing household chores, going to the grocery store, etc. Throw in a back rub, make their favorite dinner and watch their favorite movie. You’ll give them the chance to recharge and that will mean more to them than chocolates ever could!
  2. IOU Coupons
    An excellent way to show your love can be through making IOU coupons or vouchers. Some examples include:

    • This voucher is good for one week of dish washing by me, no questions asked.
    • This voucher is good for guaranteeing one season of your favorite TV show to be shared with me. And a promise that there will be no channel surfing during said show.
    • This voucher is good for one foot massage. To be redeemed any time.
    • This voucher is good for one breakfast in bed.
  3. Get Cooking: Instead of spending a fortune at an expensive restaurant, run to the grocery store and pick up the essentials to make your loved ones favorite meal. Light some candles, dim the lights and play some romantic music in the background. Don’t forget the desert!
  4. Plan a throwback night
    Still have a vintage Nintendo or PlayStation tucked away in storage? If your significant other is into video games, plan a “throwback” night with old-school games (video or board)!
  5. Get Creative
    I’m sure you’ve heard this before but, there’s nothing wrong with a homemade gift. Your significant other will be swept off their feet when you give them a heartfelt, handwritten letter on notebook or construction paper, I promise. If you have extra time, print off a photo of you and your boo and stick it in your homemade card. Add a meaningful note and you are all set!
  6. Flowers
    If flowers are a must, you may have to cash up a few extra dollars. Flower bouquets are always extremely over priced on Valentine’s day. My recommendation is to pick some up from the grocery store as opposed to a flower shop. Also, try looking for flowers at wholesale stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. They will be cheaper, and your loved one will never even know the difference! It’s the thought that counts, right?

Whatever your gift might be, the most important feature of any gift is sincerity. Show your Valentine you’re happy they’re in your life. The best gift of all should be spending quality time with your loved one and showing them how much you care about them, not just on Valentine’s Day, but everyday!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jessica M.

Hosting a Super Bowl Party on a Budget

There are just two days left until the most watched annual sporting event in the world airs on NBC… Super Bowl XLIX. That being said, many of you may be interested in hosting a Super Bowl party with your friends or family, so I thought I would share some of my favorite game day recipes that your guests won’t be able to resist.  Now, I am all about healthy eating, but sometimes I just like to let loose, watch football and enjoy some good food. If you are looking to host a Super Bowl party this year, be sure to check out these delicious yet budget friendly appetizers:

1. Ham and Cheese Sliders
I know what you are thinking…ham and cheese sliders…. does that really require a recipe? The answer is YES it does. These have so much flavor and everyone at your party will absolutely love them. If you are interested, click here for the recipe!

Ham and Cheese Sliders - easy and crowd pleasing sandwiches. {The Girl Who Ate Everything}

2. Bacon Wrapped Smokies in Maple Glaze
Of all the football food I have made, this is by far one of my favorites. Warning: They are super addicting! They aren’t necessarily the most healthy food of choice, but they sure are delicious and super easy to make! Plus, who doesn’t love bacon!? For the recipe, click here!

Bacon-Wrapped 'Lil Smokies in a Brown Sugar and Maple Glaze...

3. Skinny Taco Dip
In case you are looking for something a little lighter, check out this skinny taco dip! It’s delicious, popular and it only takes about 5 minutes to make! Just don’t forget the Tostitos! Click here for the recipe!

I make this dip for every party!

 4. Buffalo Chicken Dip
You can’t go wrong with buffalo chicken dip and a bag of Tostitos! Delicious, crowd-pleasing and very easy to make! Click here for the recipe!

FRANK'S® REDHOT® BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

5.Veggies
Veggie platters are always a great choice for a party. Crisp, seasonal veggies can add color and flavor to a table, and heath conscious guests will appreciate the tasty, guilt-free offering. Add some dips to the mix and you are all set to go!

If you are looking to host a low cost party, why not turn it into a potluck? Have your guests bring an appetizer and beverage of their choice? This will help save you time and money! Plus everyone will be pleased no matter who wins the game!

Who will you be rooting for this Sunday? Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots?

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Super Bowl XLIX: Fun Facts

patriotsseahawkssuperbowl

Well, the weekend is almost here and in just a few short days, millions of viewers will be in front of their TV’s watching the Super Bowl XLIX. What do you need to know about this year’s Super Bowl? Well, I have done some research so that you can feel fully prepared to watch the game this Sunday! Check out some fun facts below!

  • Game Info: Sunday, February 1, 5:30 PM on NBC @ University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
  • Teams: Seattle Seahawks vs New England Patriots
  • The Seahawks and Patriots are both the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences
  • The Seahawks are the first team to play in consecutive Super Bowls since the Patriots did it in 2004-05
  • Tom Brady’s 6th Super Bowl appearance is the most in the NFL for any quarterback. With the win against the Indianapolis Colts, Brady broke his tie with former Denver Broncos great John Elway as the only quarterbacks to have been in five Super Bowls.
  • Arizona is hosting the Super Bowl for the third time in 19 years.
  • A  30-second ad cost $4 million in 2014, and that number is expected to rise to $4.5 million this year.
  • Katy Perry is the featured artist for the halftime show. Lenny Kravitz will join Perry as a guest performer. The very talented Idina Menzel will perform the national anthem, while Grammy winner John Legend sings “America the Beautiful.”
  • There will be 120 footballs ready to go on Sunday. Let’s hope they are all regulation size.
  • The well known sterling silver Lombardi Trophy, is made by Tiffany & Co. and weighs about seven pounds.

Do you have some fun facts to share about Super Bowl XLIX? If so, leave us a comment below!

Who will you be rooting for this Sunday?

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

52 Week MEGA Money Challenge

For those of you who have tried the 52 Week Money Challenge and successfully completed it, I now have a new challenge for you! It’s called the 52 Week MEGA Money Challenge. Now, I know saving money can be quite the challenge, especially when you are in your 20’s. Many of us are counting every penny and it’s really hard not to spend it, let alone save it! But if the other challenge was a breeze, and you have the income to support saving a larger amount of cash, then it’s time to take it a step further!

The mega challenge is based on the standard challenge, but instead of beginning week one with a $1 deposit into the challenge fund, the mega challenge begins with $5. Then each week of the year, you multiply that week’s number by $5. In week two, the goal is $10, in week three it’s $15, and so on until the last week of the year (52) when you’ll need to deposit $260 into the fund. While the price is steep, the reward compares. If you are able to accomplish the challenge, you’ll have an extra $6,890 in your bank account at the end of the year. Imagine all of the things you could do with that extra money!

 

This is an excellent challenge for those who are highly motivated and currently have the income which can support these savings numbers. The purpose of these 52 week challenges isn’t necessarily about the overall money saved. The main point of it is to get you into the habit of saving money each week, and a side benefit of that is that you can begin to fund your emergency savings as well. Shoot for the highest amount you feel confident you can achieve, but definitely don’t overextend yourself to the point that you end up quitting. If you feel it’s too much some weeks, put only the amount you feel comfortable with.

Are you up for the challenge? If so, keep us updated on your journey!

Until Next Time,

 

Jessica M.

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