Friday, March 24, 2017

Planning for a Spring Home Project Without Going into Debt

If you haven’t already begun, now is the perfect time to begin planning for your spring home projects! Whether you are looking to tackle an expansion or to update your furniture, you will have to face the question of “how am I going to pay for this?” With careful planning, a spring home project should not put you into significant debt. Take a look at our best tips on budgeting for a home project.


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1. Have a Realistic Vision

Will that new home trend you have your eye on stand the test of time? Can you justify spending thousands of dollars on an outdoor kitchen if you only grill once or twice a summer? Set realistic expectations for your design to stay on budget.

2. Shop Around and Do Your Research

When you are hiring professionals, consider a few factors. Take a look at certifications, licensing, pricing, reputation, and customer testimonials. Get advice from experts and referrals from friends who have gone through home renovation experiences. Be thorough in your research in order to get an idea of the scope, price, return on investment, and how your renovations would contribute to the property value of your home.

If you are looking for projects to get the most bang for your buck, choose projects that are simple, energy-efficient, and low-maintenance as well as fitting in with the property value of similar homes in your neighborhood. Find inspiration in the following popular home improvement projects:
  • Wood deck upgrades
  • Re-roofing the house
  • Vinyl or foam-backed vinyl siding replacement
  • Adding an extension
  • Kitchen updates
  • Bathroom remodel
  • Basement remodel
  • Energy-efficient lighting and appliance upgrades
  • Landscaping the front yard

3. Plan it Out

Every successful project starts with a considerable amount of planning. Be sure to map out the details of your project in order to maximize efficiency and minimize stress. Organize a timeline and budget for your project. This planning phase of your project could potentially save you tons of money.


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4. Seek the Help of a Professional

DIY home improvements can feel rewarding, but if done poorly, it could cost you even more in time and money to have work redone. Consider if the project is worth your time and effort. Do you have the necessary equipment and expertise to complete the project properly? Additionally, there are projects that should definitely be left to professionals, such as electrical, plumbing, and gas work. If you decide to seek the help of a professional, read these tips for hiring a home improvement contractor.

5. Search for Financing Options

To help keep your budget under control, seek out financing options. St. Cloud Federal Credit Union offers a Home Equity Line of Credit. The Home Equity Line of Credit is a form of revolving credit that allows you to withdraw money when you need it using the equity of your home as collateral. Currently, St. Cloud Federal Credit Union is offering an introductory rate of 2.99% and no closing costs.

*2.99% is an introductory rate for 24 months. After the introductory period, rates will go into standard pricing (Prime Rate + 1%). Available for a limited time only to qualified borrowers on approved credit.

Whether making spring cleaning changes or complete renovations, get started with a realistic goal, plenty of research, a well-thought plan, professional assistance, and financial help from St. Cloud Federal Credit Union.

Friday, January 13, 2017

New Year’s Resolutions for Financial Health

Next to physical health, financial health is at the center of many Americans’ New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve resolved to finally get your finances in check this year, use these tips to save more, spend less, and make this your year!


Like other lofty goals, taking small, manageable steps in the right direction is going to be the key to actually succeeding. And just like other improvements in one’s life, deciding to make a change is the biggest hurdle to making a difference.


1. Save Wherever You Can
Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 2.38.56 PM.pngA person’s financial health depends on many factors, not the least of which is their ability to pay for emergencies out of savings rather than cash flow. So how do you boost your savings on regular basis?
First, decide on the portion of your tax return, bonus, or financial windfall that will go to your savings account and what will go toward paying off any debt you may be carrying. Second, slide some of your income into savings before it even gets into your hands. Use payroll deductions from St. Cloud Federal Credit Union to put a portion of your paycheck directly into savings.


2. Get on the Same Page as Your Spouse
According to a study by SunTrust banks, nearly half of all respondents have different spending habits than their partners, which is why this made our list. It is difficult to reach financial goals as a couple if you don’t agree on the goals or how to get there. Not to mention that financial stress is the number one cause of marital stress for those who indicated stress in their relationship.

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Sit down together and take stock of where your finances are. Make the following decisions together:
  1. Decide what you’d like to accomplish in the next year, whether it’s paying down debt, opening a college savings fund, or just keeping monthly spending to a specific and firm budget.
  2. Decide who is best to manage your finances. If the current arrangement isn’t working, think about having the other person step in.
  3. Set your budget and make a plan to stick to it. That brings us to the next suggestion.


3. Watch Those Little Purchases
Whether you’re single or attached, make a budget. Look carefully at your monthly and yearly income, and where it was spent last year. Are you happy with what you see? Is it what you expected?
Setting a weekly and monthly budget with spending caps can help you reach your year-end goals. Watch those little purchases that may have made up more of your spending than you thought, such a parking, eating out, coffeehouse visits, or traffic tickets. Although they seem small at the time, adding these small tickets to your burden every single week or month will end up creating a big hole in your financial plan.


4. Watch Those Big Purchases
Ah, the splurge. Whether it was a Christmas gift or a mid-winter vacation, one large purchase outside the scope of your budget can throw things off for months. Discuss these big ticket items with a financial advisor to proactively set a plan for achieving it. Americans often have a habit of buying first and thinking about it later, which is a sure way to rack up debt. Shop around, compare prices, check your impulses, and remember that it’s ok to say no to yourself in favor of your greater goals of financial freedom.


5. Check Interest Rates
office-1574717_640.jpgIf reducing your debt is one of your goals—and if you have debt, it should be—look at the interest rates you’re paying. Get rid of the balances that carry the highest rate, and work down from there. If you’re not sure where to start, this is one strategy for tackling debt.


Similarly, compare interest rates for savings accounts and money market accounts. Talk with a representative at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union to determine if the money you’re saving could be earning you more.


6. Plan for Retirement


According to the 2016 Financial Literacy Survey, one-quarter of Americans don’t save any of their annual income toward retirement. Lauren Brouhard, Senior Vice President of Retirement at Fidelity Investments, recommends saving 15% of your income to ensure a comfortable retirement.


If you haven’t opened your 401k retirement plan or checked in on its performance, do that immediately. If your employer offers a matching contribution to your 401k, be sure to take advantage.


For assistance with any of these tactics, we encourage you to let St. Cloud Federal Credit Union help you maintain this year’s New Year’s resolutions!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

St. Cloud Federal Credit Union: Banking on a Meaningful Difference

Core values and mission statements are often well meaning, but sometimes get left behind as a company gets on with its business. Not at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union. We put great emphasis on living our core values and making them evident in our interactions with our members. (We even had a lovely plaque framed to remind us!)
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Our motto is Banking on a meaningful difference. Our banking services are top notch, but what sets us apart is that meaningful difference, both in the lives of our employees and our members. It may seem a lofty goal, but we are committed to this every day, and we’ll show you how.


It comes down to fulfilling our motto with purpose.


To us, PURPOSE stands for:
  • P: Passion Matters. We enjoy what we do, and we enjoy making a difference in the lives we touch.
  • U: United We Make a Difference. St. Cloud Federal Credit Union is a team, and our community is a team, and together we can do great things.
  • R: Reach for More Every Day. Inspiring our employees shows that we believe in all we can accomplish, which gets passed along to our members.
  • P: People are Trustworthy and Unique. Our culture is alive and dynamic thanks to the people and the energy within it.
  • O: Operational Excellence. Quality services and advice, authentic relationships, and genuine trust make our goals possible.
  • S: Service Above Self with Balance. Striving for improvement and excellence often means putting others first.
  • E: Embrace Change and Creativity. And wonderful things can happen!


Want to see our motto in action?
We couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the St. Cloud community, and here are some of the ways we’ve found to make a meaningful difference.


St. Cloud Federal Credit Union Annual Community Day


In October, we close our branches for one day in order to go out into the community to volunteer together at several local organizations. Our members got involved too, by suggesting the places where we could make an impact with our work, and it remains one of our favorite initiatives.


ChangeMakers Community Recognition Program


Part of making a meaningful difference is highlighting and thanking those in our community who are giving of their time and their hearts to make other people’s lives better. Read more about the 2016 winner, Fawn Wright of Project Linus, and you’ll be as inspired as we were!
Sartell High School Grant for Financial Education


We recently matched a financial grant awarded to Sartell High School to help fund Financial Education and a Micro-Financing Initiative for its students. A win-win-win, this program educates students about global poverty and human geography, while spurring small loans to those in developing countries and giving us a perfect opportunity to make a difference.


At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we will continue bringing these core values into our work and into our relationships with our members in everything we do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

International Credit Union Day

This Thursday, October 20th, is International Credit Union Day! This exciting day aims to raise awareness about the importance of credit unions and the many benefits they offer to members. This annual day is to embrace the features that make Credit Unions unique and to express gratitude to its members. Credit unions differ from other financial institutions based on the structure and principles they have and are recognized for being more community and member focused. Although both offer similar products and services Credit Unions are able to offer better rates and fewer fees due to them being not for profit.

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St. Cloud Federal Credit Union set itself apart from other financial institutions by the member experience it provides and the commitment it makes to make a positive impact in the community. Our mission is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our members and our communities. SCFCU is committed to providing its members with the best products and services to make saving easier and our rates are consistently ranked top 5 in the industry.

International Credit Union day is a special day to us and we want to thank all of our members for their loyalty. We want to celebrate our members on our upcoming “Member Appreciation Day” on October 28th. Join us as we celebrate YOU, with refreshments, lunch, and fun games!



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Being a Member From Abroad—Ashley’s SCFCU Experience

At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we pride ourselves in taking care of our members. Whatever your current situation, wherever life takes you, we want to be there to help. One member, Ashley, tells us about her experience with SCFCU while she traveled abroad in her own words:


Screen Shot 2016-09-20 at 2.20.06 PM.pngSt. Cloud Federal Credit Union is a place that has always been familiar to me growing up, as it still is today- with both of my parents being members there for over 20 years. When I decided to travel to Europe, I turned to my parents for advice on where I should set up my accounts before I leave. I needed a bank account and a debit card that would work for overseas for 3 months, have the features I desired and still be convenient for my family to make deposits. After discussing this with my parents, they suggested I stop into their credit union to learn more.


The next day I went to the St. Cloud Federal Credit Union to discuss my Europe trip and my plans for gaining access to my money while abroad. The staff at SCFCU made me feel valued and respected during all stages of my visit—from inquiry to new membership. They eagerly helped find the best product for me and also took the time to set everything up. I was surprised by all the benefits and features of their accounts—all of which fulfilled my financial needs abroad.


The employees at the SCFCU understood that I would be away for several months and wanted to make my experience with them as smooth as possible. The staff showed me how to utilize my online banking account and even helped me download and sign into the SCFCU mobile banking apps. I realized that, to SCFCU, it was more than just setting up another checking and savings account, rather it was a new relationship being established with a valued member. This made me realize the clear difference between banks and credit unions.


Throughout my trip,I had no troubles with my checking or savings account, and my parents were able to deposit money into my accounts, which saved me in a couple emergency situations. I knew that if something did occur with my accounts while abroad that the staff at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union would take good care of me. As I am a member now, I see how the staff go the extra mile to ensure their members are taken care of and feel valued.


Thank you for the kind words, Ashley. We are happy to help. If you are heading overseas on vacation, on a study abroad program, or for any other reason and are curious about finances, contact St. Cloud Federal Credit Union.


Friday, August 12, 2016

When Should You Refinance Your Mortgage

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When it comes to refinancing your mortgage, you need to determine the best possible plan and method of refinancing. At the St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we can help you determine the most beneficial mortgage plan for you and your family.


What is Refinancing?


Refinancing a mortgage means paying off an existing loan and replacing it with a new one. Dependent on your financial situation, refinancing can save you money and give you flexibility. It can help shorten the term of your loan or help you build equity more efficiently.



When is the Best Time to Refinance?


People refinance their mortgage when you are buying a new home or property, financing a home addition, constructing a new home, or buying an investment property. People who wish to refinance their mortgages may also be looking for a lower interest rate, a shorter mortgage term, a fixed-rate mortgage (instead of an adjustable-rate mortgage), or debt consolidation.

The two most common types of refinancing include rate-and-term refinancing and cash-out financing. Understanding these two types of refinancing can help you determine if this is the best possible option for your finances. Learn more about the two most common types of refinancing in a blog by bankrate.com.



How Can I Get More Answers about Refinancing? Is it the Best Option for Me?


The New Vanishing Mortgage program offered by the St. Cloud Federal Credit Union was established to benefit members who are approaching the completion of their mortgage and for those who may not have taken advantage of historically low rates due to fees and the hassle of applying. The Vanishing Mortgage program is also open to those who have refinanced but want even lower rates.


Personalized assistance from the Mortgage Department can help you build confidence in your mortgage and loan terms. For more information on refinancing your mortgage and the Vanishing Mortgage program, reach out to representatives from the Mortgage Department at the St. Cloud Federal Credit Union to see if you qualify and to see if you will benefit from refinancing.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Purchasing a Home: Financial Preparation Planning

According to Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey, 56 percent of Americans own a home and 25 percent plan to purchase one in the next 10 years. Experts say you should begin planning to buy your home a year before actually making the purchase. Having a game plan set up ahead of time may save you tons of extra time and money. Here's how you can prepare your credit and finances for your future home investment:
Start with Your Credit Score
accounting-761599_640.jpgStart with knowing where you stand and how lenders will look at you financially. Credit reports will show lenders whether you are routinely late with payments and whether you have run into serious credit problems in the past. Doing this first will give you time to work on building your credit score if necessary. Make sure you use an actual FICO score, as this is what most lenders see. Credit reports are kept by the three major agencies; Experian, Equifax, and the TransUnion. You can get a free copy of your credit reports annually from AnnualCreditReport.com.


Convert to a Conservative Budget
Downsize your current living expenses to put towards your new home purchase. Determine your budget with the amount you can afford to repay now in mind, not the maximum you're allowed to borrow. Keep in mind that life changes may come and careers might change down the road. Children, cars, and travel plans are just a few additional costs that can cut into savings, so make sure you have room for these costs in your budget.
debt-1157824_640.jpgCrush Your Debt
It breaks down to this: when you owe less money, you have more disposable income. As you begin to think about shopping for a house, think about other potential debts you have accumulated. Take the added income you have from budgeting and put it toward paying off your debt. Once you owe less on other debts, you’ll have more money to put toward your home (not to mention the boost you’ll see in your credit score). Another piece of advice while you’re getting ready for a mortgage is staying away from new debts, such as car loans or anything larger than $10,000.
Getting prepared to take out a mortgage may seem like a lot of work, but early preparation makes the entire process run much more smoothly. The American dream of owning your own home can turn into a nightmare quick if you aren’t prepared.


At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we can help you get that dream house and a real estate investment. Contact us today to talk with our mortgage department and find an approach that works with your lifestyle.