Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Preparing Your Finances for College



A college education can be one of life’s biggest expenses, but an education is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Don’t let the financial burden of school deter your child. Help them learn to be financially conscious and prepared for college. Learn how you can help below:

1. Be Financially ConsciousIf you haven’t had much education in saving and spending money, now is the time to start. There are online courses, community courses, and a wealth of resources online available. This article from Dailyfinance.com can help you learn to be financially savvy. Learn how to budget, how to prioritize expenses, how to save, how to use debit and credit cards, how to use online transactions safely, and more. This can be overwhelming to the student learning to budget money for the first time, but laying down the groundwork will make the transition to college and adulthood that much easier. There are also tons of excellent phone apps to help you keep track of your spending and saving habits.

2. Save Early
Have a serious conversation about who is paying for college. Make it an expectation for your child to contribute to their education. Encourage them to get a part-time job throughout high school and college to help contribute to the cost. This can help your child develop a strong work ethic, become more disciplined with their finances, as well as help them gain professional experience and develop skills.

3. Learn How to Open and Use A Bank AccountIf your child doesn’t have a checking and savings account, teach them how to open and use each one. Learn how to use ATMs associated with your credit union or bank in order to withdraw fee-free.

4. Credit Card or No Credit Card?
It seems like the second students graduate high school, your mailbox gets inundated with credit card offers. If your child chooses to get a credit card, help them look for the best possible offer. Encourage them to sign up for a secured credit card, which helps establish a credit limit. Remind your child to use a credit card as a way of building credit, not as a way of spending money. Teach them to live within their means and use a credit card for expenses like gas or groceries - expenses which they can easily pay back each month.

5. Learn About the Financial Aid Process

Help your student complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible to help you and your child make financial decisions for college. Once completed, your family will receive information in the form of a Student Aid Report (SAR), an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and a Data Release Number (DRN).

6. Research and Apply for Grants and Scholarships
Based on financial aid and/or merit scholarships, grants and scholarships are widely available and can help fund a major part of the college cost. Look for them at the national and state level in your community, through your high school, and more. There’s a treasure trove of money for higher education, you just have to put in a little elbow grease to find it.

7. Apply for Loans
The loan process can be tricky to navigate, but learn about the two federal student loan programs, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program which offers four types of loans, and the Federal Perkins Loan Program, a school-based program for students with “exceptional financial need.” Although they are often associated with higher interest rates, explore the options of private student loans. Many institutions offer them, but explore your options carefully before choosing.

Picking a loan from a credit union rather than a major institution has many benefits. With a loan from a credit union, you can enjoy lower interest rates, flexible payment plans, and much more. Visit our student loan page to learn more and to get started.

A college education can be expensive, but far from impossible, and St. Cloud Federal Credit Union can help along the way. Plan accordingly and learn early on about how your family can best prepare for the financial expenses of college.

Save for the Future: High School to College


While in high school, saving money is not the top concern for many students. High school students don’t have to worry about bills, tuition, or other expenses that are sprung upon them once they enter college. Learning about financing and budgeting at an early age will come in handy when you are advancing in your life and career. Even if you are starting late, it is a good idea to make a budget and keep track of your finances, even if you are still in high school.

Get The App
A good budgeting app can help you keep track of finances and help find areas where you can cut back. Some of the most popular apps include:
  • Mint - Mint connects your bank account and automatically inputs purchases. This feature helps you spend less time entering every purchase, which is one of the hardest parts of keeping a budget.
  • Toshl - Toshl Finance is an app that makes banking simple with setting up a monthly budget. Toshl’s budgeting section has you set a max line for the month, that will give you a great view of how close you are coming to going over your set budget for the month.
  • Left to Spend - Left to Spend is as simple as it gets when it comes to a budget for the month. All you need to do is set a budget and then simply subtract from there.

Learn the Tricks
College is all about adapting to your new surroundings, learning on the fly, and stretching your budget. To stretch your dollar a little further, try some of these simple tricks:
  • Rent textbooks or sell them back at the end of the semester
  • Walk, use public transportation or ride a bike instead of using your car. Protip: Many college students ride public transportation for free with their student ID cards
  • Check your favorite stores for student discounts - many offer them
  • Look into a campus gym versus a gym in town
  • When planning meals, make dinner with friends and split the cost of groceries
  • Don’t buy unnecessary school supplies. Why buy notebooks when you can type on your laptop
  • Wait to get a pet until after college – a pet can become very expensive
  • Don’t borrow more than you need. Most often, the amount you qualify for is more than you will spend in a semester - if you’re responsible
Invest Wisely
Even the best budgeting habits sometimes aren’t enough to pay for the mountain of expenses that come with attending college, and many need to take out student loans. A good choice for students is St. Cloud Federal Credit Union’s student loans. Loans from a credit union like St. Cloud Federal offer students lower interest rates, flexible payment plans, no organization fees, more. Students can qualify for lower rates based on their grades - the better the grades the lower the rate! And if ten percent of the loan is repaid within the repayment period, the interest rate will be reduced by one percent.



Need a cosigner? Most students do. But once you graduate and make 24 consecutive payments on the principle balance, you have the option to release your cosigner, which is good news for them and helps you build your credit. You can borrow as little $2,000, or up to $120,000 for undergraduate loans - up to $160,000 for graduate loans.

Check out our Q&A page for more information, or get started on the loan process through St. Cloud Federal Credit Union.

Saving or your college career might seem like an impossible feat. It’s not impossible, you just might need a little help to get you started. That’s exactly what we like to do - help people realize their dreams.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Teaching Your Child About Banking and Saving

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April is National Youth Credit Union Month, making this is an excellent time to teach your child about personal banking and the importance of savings. This could mean walking a child through their first steps of personal financial awareness or it could mean reiterating the importance of savings habits with teens. Here are some tips to teach your child about banking and savings:

Help Them Practice Safe Money Habits
Teaching kids how to budget at a young age can mean a great deal of difference in their personal financial habits. Encourage younger children to make a list of things they want in the order of how badly they want each item. This way they can learn to prioritize and save. Let them help budget for a grocery trip or an upcoming trip. Modeling excellent financial habits can be the most effective way to teach your kids how to practice safe money habits.

Create a Budget Together
Since your child has now identified what they want to save their money for, create a budget with how much they will have to save each week or month to achieve their goals. Using envelopes or jars to separate allowances or earnings into different categories of savings is a great way for young children to understand budgeting. Have your child draw on each envelope or jar the item that they are saving for. Create long-term and short-term saving containers to help your children understand that some things take longer to save for than others.

Set up a Youth Checking Account.
Setting up a youth checking account helps teens learn financial concepts and gives them the opportunity to practice responsible financial habits in a safe environment. Parents can also view the account, set up limits and restrictions, and monitor account activity. Encourage your child to deposit money from their allowances, birthday, holidays, and part-time jobs. At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we will deposit the first five dollars as an added bonus to young savers!

Use Tech-savviness to Their Advantage
It’s a simple fact that teens spend nearly 24/7 on their phones. Teach them to use their phones, tablets, and laptops for financial good. They can benefit greatly from online services such as free direct deposit, mobile banking, e-statements, and more.

Address Privacy and Security
With so many modern features and advantages, remind them to be mindful of financial privacy and security. Teach them the importance of never sharing information pertaining to passwords and financial privacy with others. Reiterate the importance of using privacy measures when shopping and with online transactions to prevent identity theft.

Teaching and reiterating to your children about the importance of safe banking and savings habits can set them up for financial success down the road.

For more information, read Teaching Your Child Money Habits for Life, and talk to a Member Advisor at the St. Cloud Federal Credit Union for more information on youth checking and savings.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

We Asked Employees Their Tips and Tricks For Saving Money..... This is What They Have to hare:




Looking for ways to SAVE MONEY??? 

We asked employees their tips and tricks...this is what they have to share:

"I shop at Aldi! The produce is excellent and so cheap! We are staying in our budget, spending less than we ever have at the grocery store, and eating healthier than we ever have before. Win-win-win! I try to avoid going to the store. I use as much as I can of what is already in my cupboard/closets before going out and buying more. Then I buy what is on sale when I need it."

"I shop the clearance aisles. I generally don’t buy clothes unless they’re 50-75% off. A good trick for kids is to buy at the end of the season for the following year. The Children’s Place will have their t-shirts on clearance for $1.99 and then they generally have 25%-30% off coupon plus an additional 5% off for using their store card. This brings the price of a brand new shirt down to less than $1.50! That’s less than what it would cost at a used clothing store."

"I share my kids’ clothes with friends and family. Kids outgrow clothes very quickly and generally they’re in excellent condition. I have a network of people who pass clothing to me and I continue passing clothes along the line. This takes some organization, but it’s amazing how old nuisance clothes can be an amazing help to the other families. This is a HUGE money saver!"

"I use my credit card! I buy most things using my credit card and write each purchase down in my check book register, just like as if I were using my debit card. When the statement comes at the end of the month, I have all of the money sitting in my checking account and pay the bill in full. Once I reach 10,000 points on my credit card, I get a $100 statement credit. That is FREE money! I don’t pay interest on the balance on the credit card and you don’t have to pay taxes on the statement credit. I call it taking advantage of the credit card companies and not letting them take advantage of me! This also lets money sit longer in my checking account accruing interest, so I am making money on both sides of the equation."

"I am a super planner. I plan my bills/shopping/entertainment/groceries out in advance to make sure I am saving as much as I can. I keep what I need in checking and the rest goes to savings—I have specific sub savings to organize my funds for future bills, vacations, and long term. Out of sight, out of mind! When I run out in checking, I try my best to wait until my next paycheck."

"I have another savings elsewhere that comes out the day after I get paid- out of sight, out of mind! I also did our WINcentive account for us and both kids and club savings accounts here.. And one other thing I did was start saving for both my kids when I found out I was pregnant with them and continue to put money in each of their accounts with my payroll checks. This way when we have big expenses- vehicles, insurance, college or whatever- we have funds tucked away. The other thing, it pushes my kids to put money in their savings- what’s not to like about that!"

"My money saving tip is.... Shop at ALDI!! I love that place and it's amazing the price difference there really is between other grocery stores! If you haven't been there... Check it out!"

"Use the Club Savings accounts to save for specific, individual goals or sporadic expenses. It makes it easier to see your progress for each goal. If all your savings is lumped into one savings account, it seems like your balance is high, but you’re actually falling short of your needs for each individual expense."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Is Debt Consolidation the Best Choice for My Finances?




For many, debt consolidation can be beneficial when it comes to refinancing loans and paying out debt. For others, debt consolidation can help very little in their goals of becoming free of the financial and emotional burdens of debt.

While it may sound tantalizing to consolidate all of your loans into one place, there’s much more to consider when choosing to consolidate your loans. It may be true that consolidating multiple credit accounts into one principle loan with a single payment can help lower your overall monthly expenses and eliminate the stress of multiple payments each month, but it could be possible that you would lose certain benefits, increase your time spent in debt, face higher interest, and more.

Remember that consolidation works best as part of a larger plan to become free of debt, not as a way to postpone repayment. Before you seriously consider consolidating your loans, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is my debt load manageable?
  • Is my credit level advantageous for debt consolidation?
  • Am I serious about becoming debt-free?
  • Is a personal loan the best option for my finances?
  • Will it help me face my student loans more efficiently?
  • Once I am debt-free, will I be able to stay debt-free?
It may be to your benefit to talk to a Member Advisor at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union to answer the questions above and more to help you determine if debt consolidation is best for you.

St. Cloud Federal Credit Union offers another easy way to help determine whether debt consolidation is right for you. The St. Cloud Federal Credit Union Personal Debt Consolidation Calculator offers a simple method of self-calculating your credit cards, auto loans, and other loans and installment debt. The St. Cloud Federal Credit Union also offers a comprehensive glossary of loans terms for transparency and for those new to the process. To learn more, check out our Personal Debt Consolidation Calculator.

Debt repayment and credit counseling programs can further help you repay your loans more efficiently. Whichever method you pursue in consolidating your debts, know that the experts at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union can help you get your finances in order and can help you on your way to becoming debt-free.



Friday, March 11, 2016

Join the WINcentive Savings Program at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union




St. Cloud Federal Credit Union is offering an opportunity for our members to win free cash prizes while developing smart saving habits. Fourteen credit unions across the state are already participating in the WINcentive Savings Program.

What is WINcentive?The WINcentive Savings Program is just another way that Minnesota credit unions reward their members and encourage healthy and stable savings planning in a fun and productive way. WINcentive is a prize-linked savings accounts that gives you the opportunity to win up to $5,000 in cash prizes.

What can I win?
50 members will win $100 each month, five members will win $1,000 each quarter and one member will win $5,000 each year. Winners will be announced on the Prize Winners page on the WINcentive Savings website.

How does it work?
For every $25 monthly increase in your savings account balance, you earn an entry into the monthly, quarterly, and annual state prize drawings with a maximum of four entries per month per member per participating credit union. All you need to do to maximize your monthly raffle entries is to deposit $100 into your savings account each month.

How can I participate?
In order to participate in the WINcentive program and be eligible to win prizes, you must open or have an eligible account. You must also be a resident of Minnesota and be a member with a regular share account in good standing with a participating credit union. If you fail to meet the account eligibility requirements, then you will no longer be eligible to participate.

When will it start?
The first WINcentive Savings Drawings will occur in February 2016 for January deposits. For a schedule of future drawings, visit the 2016 Statewide Prize Drawing Schedule.

Where do I go for more information?Visit the Minnesota Credit Union Network for more information about the WINcentive Savings program, as well for savings resources and the prize schedule.

The best part of this program? You can’t lose! Even if you do not win one of the drawings throughout the year, you’ll still have a hefty savings account by the end of 2016. Stop in to St. Cloud Federal Credit Union today to open your savings account. Good luck - and happy saving!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Protect Yourself When Shopping Online




With the amount of online shoppers drastically growing each year, ecommerce is here to stay. With the ease of price comparison, wider variety of products, and the ability to shop from virtually anywhere, no wonder consumers are increasingly opting to shop the web compared to brick-and-mortar stores.

While there are many benefits to shopping online, it also comes with some hassles (no we are not talking about shipping). When making online purchases, you have to give out your credit card information, shipping address, and other personal information that can be used for identity theft and credit card fraud.

When shopping online:
Look at Reviews: Shopping on a new website for the first time? Look at reviews of the website. Oftentimes by doing a simple web search, you can find out if they are a trusted online retailer. This is especially true for products you find on social media. Sometimes products advertised on social media lead to undependable offshore retailers.

Use your common sense: If the website looks out-of-date, the company is outside the United States, or something doesn’t feel right, don’t purchase anything. Find a more trusted online retailer for your purchase.

Use a Trusted Computer and Wi-fi: You can help keep your credit card numbers and other personal information protected by using a computer with up-to-date antivirus, firewalls, and antispy software. When using public computers, consider if it's an updated computer. Oftentimes, web browsers automatically save information submitted into text boxes. Make sure that the web browser does not save any of your information.

Don’t use your debit card online: Because your debit card is linked to your entire bank account, you are subject to much more vulnerability if a thief were to access your card. Credit cards offer more protection for online purchases. Credit cards also allow buyers to seek credit from the issuer if your order isn’t delivered or it wasn’t what you ordered.

Look for HTTPS: Trusted websites will have a SSL (secure socket layer) encryption installed to protect your data. You’ll know if it has an SSL if the URL starts with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://. A padlock image will also appear in either the browser or the bottom of the page.

Never give out your social security number or bithdate: Online retailers never should need your SSN or birthdate to complete a transaction.

How St. Cloud Federal Credit Union services can help:
Keep track of your purchases: Access your account from anywhere at any time from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Track your spending on the go.

Regularly monitor your credit score: Checking your credit score on a monthly basis will help you spot mistakes that you can address immediately. Visit our credit monitoring page for more information.

Safeguard yourself with knowledge: When spending money online, you want to take every precaution to protect your finances. St. Cloud Federal Credit Union offers information on general security education to help you protect your accounts and identity when making transactions online.