26 Oct

Starting Healthy Revolutionizing Your Lunch

The next time you sit down in the cafeteria for lunch, take a look at what’s on your tray. Do you have a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables? Or are the main colors white and brown, and your main food group “fried”?

Eating healthy is important, even when you’re a teen. You may not have a problem now, but a daily lunch habit of pizza, fries and chicken nuggets can add up to extra pounds and health problems when you’re an adult.

Choose Wisely, Eat Healthy

TV shows like “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” try to tackle America’s obesity problem starting with elementary and high school lunches. And first lady Michelle Obama is working to educate kids about healthy eating and obesity through her program “Let’s Move.”

Many kids eat healthy foods at home with their parents, but don’t keep it up when they’re at school. And a lot of calories are consumed at school.

Here are some tips for changing your daily lunch for the better:

  • Eat simple foods. Anything with more than five ingredients is probably overly processed and not good for you.
  • Choose whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables.
  • When you buy lunch at school, skip the snack bar and go for the more balanced hot lunch or salad bar instead.
  • Brown bag it. Pack yourself a healthy lunch with the help of your family.
26 Oct

Need Cash? Start Your Own Business

Starting your own business can be a great way to earn cash to pay for the fun things you like to do, as well as save for the things you hope to do in the future.

Generate Ideas

If you enjoy making jewelry for friends, ask your parents if it’s OK to try selling a few pieces. If you love playing with kids, a babysitting service could be perfect. And if you enjoy being animals, offer to wash neighborhood dogs.

Flesh It Out

Once you’ve selected your business, spend some time honing your idea. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my idea practical? If your neighborhood is full of children and you don’t mind working weekend evenings, babysitting could be very successful.
  • What is my competition? For example, if you have friends in the neighborhood who babysit.
  • What is my advantage over existing businesses? Charging less than the competition is always an advantage!
  • How can I deliver a better quality service? For instance, having Red Cross babysitting certification assures parents that you’ll provide top-notch child care.

Once your business is up and running, your savings account is a smart place to stash your cash.

26 Oct

Your Money: Making Good Choices

Have you ever heard the term “opportunity cost”? The concept can help you get a handle on your spending. It means the cost of passing up the next best choice when making a decision. For example, say there’s a concert coming up by one of your favorite artists, and you’d love to go. But it’s on the same night as your homecoming dance, which you really want to attend. Part of the cost of going to one event is NOT being able to go to the other.

Every time you spend money, there’s an opportunity cost. Once you pay for something, the money is no longer available for some other purpose. So before you hand over your money, ask yourself what other – perhaps better – way you could use those funds.

Maybe you’re saving for a car, which you hope to buy within a couple years. If you suddenly got $100, would you use it to but those new shoes you just saw? Or tuck it away in your savings account for the car that’s in your future? It’s easy to spend money on the latest thing that catches your eye, and harder to think about big-ticket goals that are further away. But those distant goals – like college, a car or living on your own – may be more important to you.

Stay on Track

Here are a couple ways to keep your spending in line with what you really value:

  • Decide to put a certain percentage of your money into your savings account for big, long-term goals. Then you don’t have to make the decision over and over – just follow the guideline you’ve set. If you earn a paycheck that’s directly deposited it into a checking account, you can set up automatic transfer to put part of it into your savings account.
  • Keep a picture that represents what you’re saving for in your wallet so you’re reminded of your goal every time you go to buy something.

Making regular deposits to your savings account can help you save for what’s important to you.

21 Oct

What’s New for First-Time Homebuyers?

With the low interest rates on home loans from credit unions and great deals to be had in the housing market, the mantra these days seems to be “now is the time to buy!” If you’re in the market for a home, now is the time to check out the many home mortgage options you have with Navigator Credit Union. You can view credit union loan rates online. And when you’re ready to move ahead, you can apply online for home loans.

Here are some general tips you need to know before becoming a homeowner:

1. Put more money down. While there are still many first-time homebuyer programs out there that require smaller down payments, making a larger down payment of 10% to 20% of the home’s purchase price can be a smart move. Having a larger down payment will show lenders that you are responsible, and may make getting a loan easier. Also, mortgage insurance premiums on low down payment government-backed Federal Housing Administration mortgages doubled from September 2010 to April 2011, and may continue to rise.*

2. Plan to stay longer. As anyone who purchased a home in 2006 planning to sell in three to five years can tell you, a home is not the short-term investment it once was. A sounder plan is to buy with the long term in mind. Don’t buy a home you think you’ll outgrow quickly, or one that requires renovations that may be outside your comfort zone. It’s hard to predict where the housing market will go, but buying a home instead of an investment is always a smart move.

3. Come see us. The changing landscape of the housing market is hard to keep track of, and if you’re thinking of making the leap to homeownership, you’ll want someone experienced on your side. The mortgage professionals at Navigator Credit Union keep abreast of all the latest rules and regulations and can walk through the process of prequalifying for a mortgage. Visit www.navigatorcu.org or call 228-475-7300 for more information.

*
Source: The New York Times, Feb. 24, 2011.
21 Oct

The Truth about Debt: It’s Not All Bad

Debt is a four-letter word – and it’s often used like one. We avoid it. We spurn it. We don’t mention it in polite company. But debt isn’t all bad. In fact, debt can actually help you build wealth – if you learn to use it wisely. Navigator Credit Union can help you sort out the good from the bad.

Good vs. Bad

Generally, debt is considered good if you use the money to buy something with the potential to grow in value. A college education stands to boost your earning power throughout life, so a student loan may be a good debt. Owning a home gives you a place to live and affords you tax advantages, plus the home’s value may appreciate over time, so a mortgage is often a good debt. But even good debt has a few warnings: Be sure to borrow only what you can afford to pay back, and shop around for the best credit union loan rate.

Using credit to buy disposable goods (like a T-shirt or a pizza) or anything that falls in value would result in bad debt, which can quickly stanch your cash flow. For example, if you charge a $500 high-definition TV to a credit card with a 17% interest rate, you could end up forking over $622 in total if you took just three years to repay the debt and paid only the minimum. And the higher the purchase price, the more interest you’ll pay.

But the line between good debt and bad debt isn’t always so stark. For instance, you may find it necessary to buy a car in order to hold down a job, but lack the funds to purchase it outright. While a car doesn’t have much potential to grow in value, it doesn’t have to be a bad debt. The trick is to be conservative and buy only what you can afford.

Where Do You Stand?

Most money savings experts recommend spending no more than 36% of your monthly income to pay off debt. Most lenders will consider this figure – called a debt-to-income ratio – when determining whether they will lend you money, and at what rate.

Do you know your debt-to-income ratio? A BALANCE? Financial Fitness counselor can help you assess your financial picture and suggest ways to improve it, all at no charge to you. Just contact BALANCE at 888-456-2227 to get started. Establishing a savings deposit program with Navigator can also help you avoid or reduce future debt. Call 228-475-7300, visit www.navigatorcu.org or stop by a branch today to learn more.

21 Oct

Hey, Generation X! Navigator Credit Union Is Here for You

At Navigator Credit Union, we provide value to all our members – no matter your age. From seniors and boomers to Gen Y and young children in generations yet to be named, we have the products and services that make your financial life easier. Generation X, everyone born from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s/early 1980s, have unique financial needs. And Navigator meets those needs in the following ways:

Account access wherever you go. Gen X members tend to move more than baby boomers, and are more likely to switch jobs. Even if you move out of state, you can conduct transactions at other credit unions through our shared branching network, and access your accounts using online banking or surcharge-free ATMs.

The latest technology. According to a 2009 MetLife survey, Generation X is extremely technologically savvy. Navigator is also on the cutting edge with our ‘N Touch online services including e-Bill Pay, e-Alerts, e-Statements and other e-Services. We know the importance of having account access right at your fingertips, and our convenient and secure online services deliver.

Affordable mortgage rates and experienced mortgage professionals. According to the MetLife survey, the majority of Gen Xers own homes, or would like to in the near future. Some worry about having enough money for a down payment. The mortgage professionals at Navigator can help take the guesswork out of applying for a mortgage. We will sit down and help you run the numbers based on the latest credit union loan rate. If you already own a home, we can also help you determine if refinancing is right for you.

BALANCE? and other financial education services.According to a Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, nine out of 10 people in their 30s are in debt, compared with 76% in their 20s. Generation X has incurred a great deal of student loan and consumer debt making it hard to save for retirement. As a member of Navigator Credit Union, you have access to BALANCE, a free financial counseling service. BALANCE counselors will look at what you owe and help you develop a plan to pay it off. We also offer free seminars on debt and other money management topics.

Working Hard for You

We know that when it comes to managing your money, you have different needs than your parents or your children. We have the products and services that are right for you. Find out more at www.navigatorcu.org.

21 Oct

Where to Safely Stash More Cash at Navigator Credit Union

Financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a regular savings account in case of emergency. If you’ve followed this advice and have reached your savings goal, don’t stop saving! Now’s a great time to consider other highest yield savings options that can help take your money to new heights.

The following savings vehicles from Navigator Credit Union can continue to help your money grow while still keeping it safe. Just like a regular savings account, they are NCUA insured.* Plus, you can keep tabs on these savings options just as easily as you can with your regular savings account. Here’s how they work.

Certificates of Deposit. One of the basic ingredients to a well-rounded savings plan is a certificate of deposit (or CD) that gives you a guaranteed rate of return – and that means peace of mind. CDs are high-yield deposit investments, with terms ranging from six months to five years. The interest rate for CDs tends to be higher than regular savings, which helps your money grow faster. If you are a new investor, take advantage of Navigator’s 1st Nvestor CD. For as little as $10/week, this CD gives you the opportunity to jump-start a savings plan at higher deposit rates without the requirement of a large opening balance.

Money Market Accounts. Add some muscle to your savings with a Money Market Account. This hard-working vehicle offers a higher rate than a Regular Savings Account and can be opened with an initial deposit of $2,500. Then, as your balance grows, your rate increases, too! It’s a smart way to save for a down payment on a home or to build an emergency fund as a financial cushion.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Navigator offers traditional and Roth IRAs, two helpful ways to boost savings for your golden years. In addition to helping your funds grow safely, IRAs offer tax benefits.**

Find Your Highest Yield Savings Options

Opening other savings accounts with us combines safety with convenience. You can easily check your balance with online banking and make transfers between accounts. To learn more about our savings options and view our best savings account rates, visit www.navigatorcu.org, give us a call or stop by – we’ll be happy to talk with you.

*
NCUA insurance covers $250,000 per depositor, per legal account category.
**
This financial institution does not give tax advice. Consult your tax advisor for information specific to your situation.
21 Oct

Maximize Your Tax Savings before Year-End

If you find doing your taxes about as much fun as, say, flossing, then welcome to the club! It’s a club more than 182 million strong – the number of income tax returns filed in 2009, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

To make your “club membership” a bit more enjoyable, consider adopting any of the following tax tips before year-end.

Take advantage of the saver’s credit. If you’re a low- to moderate-income taxpayer, plan to take the saver’s credit (known formally as the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit). It’s based on your contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), or an individual retirement account. The credit ranges up to $1,000 for single taxpayers and up to $2,000 for married couples. Eligibility is based on adjusted gross income: up to $28,250 in 2011 for taxpayers who are single or filing separately; $42,375 for those who file as head of household; and $56,500 for couples filing jointly.

Make a tax-free charitable contribution. If you’re age 70½ or older, you can make contributions to charitable organizations directly from your traditional individual retirement account (IRA) without paying any tax on your IRA withdrawal. In 2011, you may contribute up to $100,000 from your IRA to charities, tax-free. Note that qualified charitable contributions count toward your required minimum distribution for the year.

Beware of a major rule change in flexible spending accounts (FSAs). The greatest change in FSAs in 2011 is that you’ll now need a written order from your doctor to receive FSA reimbursement for over-the-counter medications, such as nonprescription cold tablets.

Buy a home. Despite distant Congressional rumblings about tweaking mortgage deductions, you may still be able to deduct your mortgage interest, property taxes and points paid to obtain a mortgage, as well as interest on home equity loans (up to $100,000). Plus, if you live in your home at least two of the five years before you sell, you won’t owe taxes on up to $250,000 in profit ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly). With home prices and mortgage rates still relatively low, now may be a great time to buy!

Consider taking a deduction for state and local sales taxes. As of 2010, taxpayers can take an itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes instead of an itemized deduction for state and local income taxes. That’s potentially a big help if you live somewhere without an income tax, or if you make a major purchase this year, such as a motor vehicle or boat.

Get Expert Help

Have a question (or two or three) for a qualified tax professional? Call now! You’ll find tax pros much more available and amenable to your questions now than in mid-April. Plus, you’ll feel better prepared come filing time!

21 Oct

EASY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

This butternut squash soup is simple to prepare and chock-full of nutrients, such as beta-carotene, calcium, vitamin C and potassium.

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds butternut squash,
peeled and chopped
5 cups of low-sodium
chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon ground sage
¼ cup 1% or skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Add butternut squash and chicken stock to a stock pot or sauce pan. Make sure the stock covers the squash. Add a pinch of salt.

Cook on high heat until it boils. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.

Add herbs and pepper.

Simmer for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Remove from heat and cool. Then mix soup in a blender until smooth, or use an immersion blender.

Stir in milk, and add salt and pepper to taste.

 
Per two-cup serving: 92 calories, 1g fat, 19g carbohydrates, 2g protein.
21 Oct

Harvesting Autumn’s Healthy Bounty

Seasons like winter and summer often inspire you to adopt healthy habits. With winter comes the New Year and resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more. In the summer, warmer weather encourages us to get outside and move and an abundance of healthy produce is available to make light, summery meals.

You may not think of autumn as a time to get healthy. But with kids going back to school, the leaves starting to change color and the air feeling cooler, autumn can be a time for new beginnings. Make a fresh start this fall by changing a few of your eating habits – the results can get you on the way to a healthy heart.

Making the Right Choices

While some fat is essential to your diet, most people get too much and the wrong kinds. Eating too much saturated fat and trans fat can contribute to high cholesterol and obesity, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Choose unsaturated fats instead, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Research has also shown that omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial to health. Try upping your consumption of healthy fats by sautéing in olive oil as opposed to butter, and occasionally serving fish instead of beef or pork.

Grains are an integral part of a healthy diet, but some are better choices than others. Refined white flour has fewer nutrients and less fiber than whole-grain options, so choose wisely. Brown rice, whole-grain breads and pasta, and grains such as barley and quinoa are tasty and healthy alternatives.

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is a great way to protect your heart. They are low in calories and full of antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, and fiber. Try adding a few of the tasty fall foods (above,right) to your diet.

Small Changes, Big Impact

By making a few small tweaks to your diet, you’ll reap big rewards. It’s not too hard to try a new vegetable, switch to a more heart-healthy fat and add whole-grains to your meals. The result will be tasty meals – and a healthy you!

nutritional benefits of some fall vegetables and fruits