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POSTED: Dec 20, 2017
MCU’s Tips for Sticking to Your Financial Resolutions in 2018

Welcoming in the New Year means taking on new resolutions. If your goals for 2018 include becoming more financially fit, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, according to the consumer research organization Nielsen, 25 percent of New Year’s resolutions include the better management of money.

Sticking to your resolutions can be tough, but If you’re ready to work hard and achieve your goals, we’re ready to help! Check out our tips below on how to achieve your financial resolutions in 2018.

1. Consider your Habits
Nobody likes making mistakes but looking back on your missteps can be a valuable tool when it comes to breaking bad financial habits. By taking time to evaluate how you’ve struggle to manage your finances in the past, you’ll be able to take steps that will make a meaningful impact on your financial fitness.Taking the time to sort these documents in advance will not only save you the trouble during crunch time, but will also help to reduce the risk of errors when filing your taxes.
For example, by recognizing that you have a habit of overspending on your weekly groceries, you can recognize the value in taking time to clip coupons or order groceries online where you can’t be tempted by impulse purchases.

2. Set SMART Goals
Oftentimes, achieving your New Year’s resolutions can be made much easier just by verbalizing or recording them in a way that will motivate you. For example, saying that you’d like to save more money may not emotionally motivate you the way that saying that you’d like to save $5,000 by the end of the year to put towards a new car might.

In order to set a meaningful and motivating goal, it’s important to remember it must be “SMART” – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive.

  • Specific: Keep your goal as focused and clear-cut as possible. This will allow you to visualize your endgame and take the appropriate steps to achieve it.
  • Measurable: Be sure you can set small milestones or take inventory of your progress as you go so you can feel confident about your progress towards your final goal.
  • Achievable: Your goal can be ambitious, but it shouldn’t be too lofty.
  • Realistic: If your goal is to find a bag full of money on the street, it’s time to try again. Your goals and resolutions shouldn’t only be achievable under the best case or unusual circumstances.
  • Time Sensitivity: A timeline is a key component to setting your goals. Give your goals a deadline and only change them if it’s absolutely required.

3. Get Your Friends and Family Involved
If you’ve struggled with following through on goals, this year is a great opportunity to break the cycle by getting your friends and family involved. By including your loved ones, you’ll not only have extra resources and support, but will also be held accountable for achieving your resolutions. It may not always be easy to talk about money, but by sharing ideas, brainstorming and making changes together can both create help create positive financial habits and bring people together. To learn to get started on how to include your family in your financial goals, check out our blog post Reaching Financial Goals as a Family.

4. Create a Budget
No matter what your financial goals are, your budget will be the key to your success by providing you with a blueprint that will help you stay vigilant of your finances. By creating a breakdown of spending, income and debts, you’ll be able to better identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies and begin to make headway on your future plans.

To learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you, check out our blog post MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan.

5. Set Up Direct Deposit
Setting aside savings to achieve your financial goals can seem daunting. However, by using direct deposit and automated transfers, you can begin to put as much or as little away as you want each month without even having to think about it.

Depending on your goals and priorities, direct deposit can be used to allocate funds to a checking account used exclusively to make loan payments, a 529 or other college savings account, Holiday or Vacation Club Account, or even an after-tax investment account.

And using direct deposit won’t just ensure that your annual goals are met, but will give you the confidence to freely use any money still available in your personal account after the deductions.

POSTED: Dec 06, 2017
Five End-of-Year Tips for Preparing your Taxes

For many of us, end-of-year celebrations and the holiday season can fill our calendars and minds. However, they can also become distractions from the upcoming tax season looming ahead. By taking just a few small steps with your taxes now, you can make a big difference when it comes time to file. Check out our tips below!

1. Get Organized

Whether you plan to file your taxes yourself or to hire a professional preparer, you’ll need to be sure you have all of your paperwork in order. This means taking time to locate all of your invoices, bank statements, W-2 forms and proof of investments and putting them in the same format and the same system. This may be as easy as scanning them into a PDF document or preparing original documents in a folder or file that can be saved securely and located easily.

Taking the time to sort these documents in advance will not only save you the trouble during crunch time, but will also help to reduce the risk of errors when filing your taxes.

Because taxpayers are supposed to hold onto these tax documents for up to seven years, creating an organized system won’t just prepare you for this year’s tax filing, but will also come in handy if you should ever find yourself being auditing.

2. Contribute to your Tax-Deferred Retirement Accounts

If you’ve received an end-of-year raise or bonus, consider putting it towards your 401(k) or IRA in order to maximize your tax-deferred contributions for the year. According to the IRS, a worker under the age of 50 is allowed to contribute up to $18,000 to his or her 401(k) in 2017, while those over the age of 50 can contribute up to $24,000.

While it may not seem plausible to set aside the maximum contribution amount, workers should aim to at least contribute the maximum that may be matched by their employer or whatever may fit your budget. Learn more about maximizing your 401(k) contribution here.

According to TurboTax, taxpayers should also consider contributing to their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), which can be made for 2017 up until April 17, 2018. You can contribute a maximum of $5,500 to an IRA for 2017, as well as an extra $1,000 if you are 50 or older.

These contributions will not only allow you to benefit from tax-deferred financial growth, but will also reduce your taxable income.

3. Consider your Charitable Giving

If you plan to itemize your tax deductions, any donation you’ve made to a charitable organization throughout the year, even as late as December 31, can benefit you with a tax deduction. These donations can be both monetary and nonmonetary and will require different kinds of paperwork for when filing your taxes.

For example, a monetary donation, whether by cash, credit card, check, or payroll deduction will require a written statement from the charity, which you can ask for at the time of your donation. If you’re lacking an acknowledgment, contact the charity and ask for it, as you’ll need it for when you file your return.

Similarly, if you have donated an item, you’ll need to keep detailed receipts for your records. If the total value of your donation exceeds $500, there are certain items that your tax preparer will need to claim the charitable contribution on your tax return, including a receipt of the donation (along with the date of the donation and the charity’s details) and the market value of the item donated.

4. Set up a Meeting with your Tax Preparer

If you do plan to have a professional file your taxes, now is the time to set up an appointment. April 17 – tax day – may seem far away but tax accountants and preparers can become inundated quickly. Booking early can save you the stress of potentially being turned away and will give you time to make sure your preparer has everything he or she will need.

POSTED: Sep 26, 2017
Credit 101: Tackling Frequently Asked Questions

Credit is important. However, if you’re feeling in the dark about what it is and how it works, you’re definitely not alone. According to a recent study conducted by NerdWallet and Harris Polls, most Americans don’t understand the basic ins and outs of credit.

Knowing how credit works and how it can affect you is an important step in the journey to achieving your financial goals. Not sure where to start? Check out our FAQ!

What is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that is calculated from an individual’s credit report and can play a significant role in how lenders assess your credit-worthiness, which is simply how trustworthy a financial institution or creditor determines you to be. For example, a strong credit score and history demonstrates to potential employers, utility companies, financial institutions and even landlords that you are a responsible person who pays their bills on time.

It’s important to note that each person has several different credit scores. Most notably, the three major credit rating agencies Experian, Equifax and TransUnion will each generate their own.

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

While information such as age, income, ethnicity and marital status don’t influence your credit score, five key factors will affect your score to varying degrees. They are:

  • Payment history (35 percent). You payment history takes into account how reliable you have been in making payments on time and if you have any payment delinquencies.
  • Credit utilization (30 percent). This factor measure how much you owe on your accounts and the amount of available credit used on your revolving accounts.
  • Length of credit history (15 percent). Your credit history is made up of how long accounts have been opened the length of time since credit cards were last used.
  • Types of credit used (10 percent). The mix of accounts you have, such as revolving and installment can play role in your credit score.
  • New credit (10 percent). This refers to your pursuit of new credit, including credit inquiries and the number of recently opened accounts.

What are the Benefits of a Good Credit Score?

Having a good credit score, which is considered to be 720 or higher, comes with several important benefits, including:

  • Increased credit card limits
  • Competitive mortgage and refinancing rates
  • Lower financing rates for loans and insurance
  • Excellent credit card deals
  • Leverage when negotiating with lenders

How Can a Poor Credit Score Affect Me?

Having a poor credit score, which is considered to be 620 or lower, can come with significant drawbacks, including:

  • Higher interest rates on credit cards and loans
  • Difficulty getting approved for a loan or credit card
  • Trouble getting approved for an apartment
  • Security deposits required for utilities
  • More expensive insurance premiums

How Can I Build Credit?

The key to building a good credit score is to avoid carrying a lot or debt and to create a borrowing history that demonstrates you are able to consistently pay your bills on time.

To start, set up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills, like cell phones or cable. This will not only make paying your bills easy, but will ensure you never miss a payment. If you are unable to set up an automatic payment, setting a reminder for when bills are due can also help.

Having a healthy relationship with credit is also important and having a credit card can help to bolster your credit score even if it’s only used minimally. If you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, consider a secured credit card like the MCU Secured VISA® Credit Card, where you can obtain a credit line equal to the deposit you make, helping you to steadily improve your credit score.

My Credit Isn’t Great. How Can I Started to Rebuild it?

In addition to working towards creating a strong payment history, those with already damaged credit will have to work extra hard to show they can have a healthy relationship with credit. This means that paying down your debt is essential. Freezing your credit cards or using them only in emergencies is the first step.

Once you’ve taken on a new attitude towards using your credit card, you’ll need to set up a plan in which you can put a large piece of your budget towards your highest interest credit cards, while maintaining your other minimum payments will be the most effective step to minimizing your debt.

You can also consider consolidating your debt in order to pay it off more easily. However, It’s important to make sure the loan you are taking in order to consolidate your debts comes with decent rates and terms.

How Can I Check My Credit Score?

Before you look to an online service for your credit score, check your credit card and loan statements. Many major credit card companies and some auto loan companies have begun to provide credit scores for all their customers on a monthly basis.

However, checking your credit score isn’t enough. As a consumer, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You can order these reports online from annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. To receive your credit report, you will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

POSTED: Aug 22, 2017
MCU's Tips for Saving Your First $1,000

If you’re having a difficult time building a nest egg, you’re definitely not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by GoBankingRates.com, a whopping 69 percent of Americans have reported having less than $1,000 in savings. More than half of those surveyed also reported that they would be unable to cover a $500 expense.

Breaking a paycheck-to-paycheck cycle can be difficult but it’s an important step in becoming financially secure and working towards long-term goals. Whether you’re new to managing your money or trying to break old habits, we’ve come up with some easy ways to start working towards saving your first $1,000. Check them out below!

1. Create a budget

A budget is a visual tool to help you manage your spending within your means so it’s easy to see how it’s the first step to creating spending plan that will allow you to start saving.

To start, keep track of your cash flow to help understand all of your costs and prioritize your spending. For example, once seeing your cash flow written down, you may be able to decide that while you need Wi-Fi, you can do without an expensive cable package. You’ll need to pay rent or your mortgage but can decide not to run your AC unit all summer or pay down debt before you can take a vacation. You may also prioritize exactly how much of your budget you would like to save.

Remember, not all expenses or sources of income occur within a single month. For example, your tax return may appear once a year, your car insurance bill may come due twice a year and homeowner association fees may only occur quarterly.

2. Cut back on small luxuries

If you’re working on a tight budget, making compromises on small luxuries can pack a big punch. These changes may include:

  • Packing lunch
  • Making coffee at home
  • Buying generic brand items
  • Canceling unnecessary magazine/newspaper subscriptions

3. Find a “side gig”

When cutting back isn’t enough, picking up a side gig is a great way to earn extra cash that can go straight into savings. Unlike a second job, a gig typically allows an individual to pick their own hours and work as little or as much as they want. This could include dog walking, house sitting or even joining a ride-sharing program. It’s popular too. According to Bankrate.com, 44 million Americans have taken on a gig to help get ahead. More than 35 percent of those surveyed reported earning more than an additional $500 a month!

4. Open a savings/share account that’s right for you

If you’re one of the more than 9 million people in the United States who don’t have a savings account, it’s time to open one. Having a savings account will not only give you a secure place to keep your savings but it will help you make your money work for you with interest. As an added benefit, account holders can set up direct deposit so a percentage of their paycheck goes directly into their account, helping them to set a pace for their savings without thinking about it.

However, not all savings products are created equal so it’s important to shop around for the account that works best for you. This means considering a credit union (who have share accounts), as they are known for having better interest rates and fewer penalties and fees.

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
Credit Score FAQ

1. What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that is calculated from and summarizes an individual’s credit report and history. This number can play a significant role in how lenders determine credit-worthiness for a loan or credit card.

2. How does my credit score affect me?

A credit score projects how trustworthy an individual is to pay back future loans. However, your credit score plays a role in more than determining if a lender will approve you for a loan. It will also affect the interest rates you are offered, cost of some bills or utilities and your ability to rent an apartment or hold a certain job.

3. How is a Credit Score Calculated?

Personal information like age, income, ethnicity and marital status don’t influence your credit score. However, there are five factors that will affect your score to varying degrees. These include:

  • • Credit history (35 percent): This includes late or missed payments, bankruptcies, foreclosures and collection information. How much a single incident will affect your score may be related to how late your payments were, how much was owed, and how recently and how often you missed a payment.


  • • Available credit (30 percent): This refers to how much you owe on your accounts in relationship to your line of credit. For example, if you are currently using $5,000 on a $20,000 line of credit, you will be considered to be in better financial shape than somebody who is using $5,000 on a $7,000 line of credit. Lenders and creditors also like to see that you are responsibly able to use credit and pay it off. Credit cards and other lines of credit that are “maxed out” may negatively impact your credit score.


  • • Length of credit (15 percent): The longer a line of credit is open, the more it will increase your credit score. Other factors that may be taken into account when calculating this portion of your credit score include the age of the newest credit account versus the longer credit account and how active each account’s history has been.


  • • Credit mix (10 percent): The mix of accounts you have, such as revolving and installment. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.


  • • New credit (10 percent): Your pursuit of new credit, including credit inquiries and number of recently opened accounts. However, research shows that opening several new credit accounts in a short period represents greater risk - especially for people who don't have a long credit history. Your FICO Scores take into account several factors, including how you shop for credit.

4. What are the benefits of a good credit score?

A very good credit score is considered 720 or higher while a poor credit score would be considered below 620. Having a good score is very important and will give borrowers access to benefits, including:

  • • Increased credit card limits
  • • Competitive mortgage and refinancing rates
  • • Lower financing rates for loans and insurance
  • • Excellent credit card deals
  • • Leverage when negotiating with lenders

5. How Can I improve my Credit Score?

Rebuilding your credit score can take time but is possible by targeting key problems and working to take the appropriate steps. This may include:

  • • If you have a lot of debt, it’s time to pay it down. While doing this can prove to be difficult, it’s not impossible. The most important step you can take is to create a plan that will help put a large piece of your budget towards your highest interest credit cards, while maintaining your other minimum payments on your other cards. It is strongly recommended not to stop making payments on any of your cards. This will be the most effective step to minimizing your debt and, ultimately, repairing your credit score.


  • • No credit? Apply for a credit card. Having and using a credit card can help to build your scores, even when you don’t carry a balance. If you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, consider a secured credit card like the MCU Secured Credit Card, where you can obtain a credit line equal to the deposit you make, helping you to steadily rebuild your credit score.


  • • Strengthen your credit history and set up automatic payments. Making payments on time will help to build a strong credit score. By setting up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills, like cell phones or cable, you will make paying your bills as easy as possible. If you are unable to set up an automatic payment, setting a reminder for when bills are due can also help.

6. How can I check my credit score?

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, individuals should check their credit reports once every 12 months in order to check for mistakes that may hurt their ability to obtain a line of credit, protect against identity thieves and to be sure that all personal information is up to date and accurate. The only authorized site source under federal law that provides free credit reports is AnnualCreditReport.com. There are other websites that offer to check your credit score for you as well. However, these resources will eventually charge you for other services and products you may not necessarily need.

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Building and Improving Your Credit Score

Building a good credit score is important. It plays a role in more than determining if a lender will approve you for a loan – it will affect the interest rates you are offered, cost of some bills or utilities, your ability to rent an apartment and even obtain certain jobs.

If you’re just financially starting out and don’t have a credit history or you have experienced financial setbacks that have damaged your credit score, there are several things you can do to build, improve or re-establish your credit and raise your credit score. Check them out below!

1. Know how your credit score is calculated.

The first step to building a healthy relationship with credit is knowing how it is calculated and what you should focus on most when considering your financial habits. To start, it’s important to know that personal information like age, income, ethnicity and marital status don’t influence your credit score. However, there are five factors that will affect your score to varying degrees. These include:

  • • Credit history (35 percent: This includes late or missed payments, bankruptcies, foreclosures and collection information.
  • • Available credit (30 percent): This refers to how much you owe on your accounts in relationship to your line of credit.
  • • Length of credit (15 percent): The longer a line of credit is open, the more it will increase your credit score.
  • • Credit mix (10 percent): The mix of accounts you have, such as revolving and installment. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.
  • • New credit (10 percent): Your pursuit of new credit, including credit inquiries and number of recently opened accounts.

2. Review your credit reports.

The three credit bureaus –TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – are required to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year. This will help you to not only fully understand your situation and financial habits, but will also help you check for mistakes and fraud that could be negatively effecting your credit score.

You can order these reports online from annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. To receive your credit report, you will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

If anything seems wrong, you can also dispute errors through each credit bureau. Keep in mind some disputes will take longer than others. However, once you initiate a dispute, the credit bureaus are required to investigate it and report the resolution.

3. Pay down your current debt.

If you’ve accrued a large amount of debt, the prospect of paying it down may seem intimidating. However, it’s not impossible and this is one of the fastest ways you regain control on your credit score. The most important step you can take is to create a plan that will help put a large piece of your budget towards your highest interest credit cards, while maintaining your other minimum payments on your other cards. Do not stop making payments on any of your cards. This will be the most effective step to minimizing your debt and, ultimately, repairing your credit score.

4. Set up automatic payments.

Making payments on time will help you to establish a responsible payment history. One of the best ways to do this is to set up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills, including cell phones or cable. If you are unable to set up an automatic payment, setting a reminder for when bills are due can also help.

5. No credit? Apply for a credit card.

To a newcomer, credit can sound incredibly stressful or like something to avoid. However, credit is a necessity. To start, apply for a credit card – having and using a credit card can help to build your score, even when you don’t carry a balance.

If you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, consider a secured credit card. These cards require a cash collateral deposit that becomes the credit line for that account. You can charge on the card only up to the amount you have on deposit. It’s a small step but it will help to prove your financial trustworthiness to lenders, employers, landlords and utility companies.

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