27 Jul

The Personal and Financial Benefits of Sprucing Up Your Home

If you’ve been thinking about giving your home some updates ­– and many homeowners who are opting to stay in their current homes are – now may be a good time to move forward on home improvement projects. As the economy and consumer confidence improves, economists are seeing an increase in residential renovation.* Beat your neighbors to the home improvement store or construction professionals, and start enjoying your home’s updates sooner!

Focus on Value

Giving your home some renovations can increase your home’s value in two ways:

  1. You and your family can take greater pride in your home and be more comfortable.

  2. Your home may be more attractive to buyers if you choose to sell down the road. Read more about what to do when selling your house.

And you don’t necessarily have to start knocking down walls! Minor replacements can make a big difference. According to Remodeling magazine’s most recent Cost vs. Value Report, replacement projects are performing better in resale value than remodeling projects (see chart). For example, door, siding and window replacements improve curb appeal right away at a relatively low cost.

Figure Your Financing

Whether you’re ready to begin a do-it-yourself project or eager to talk with home improvement professionals, Navigator can help you start off on the right foot with smart financial decisions. Contact us today to learn about getting a home equity loan or line of credit that may be right for you and your home’s new look. Check out credit union loan rates and start planning your home improvements today!

*
Source: “Homeowners Stop Waiting to Spruce Up,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 20, 2012.

Making a House a Home

2010-11 National Averages for Popular Midrange Projects

Project Job Cost Resale Value Cost Recouped
Entry door replacement (steel) $1,218 $1,243 102.1%
Garage door replacement $1,291 $1,083 83.9%
Minor kitchen remodel $21,695 $15,790 72.8%
Deck addition (wood) $10,973 $7,986 72.8%
Siding replacement (vinyl) $11,357 $8,223 72.4%
Window replacement (wood) $12,027 $8,707 72.4%
Bathroom remodel $16,634 $10,668 64.1%
Source: Remodeling magazine, Cost vs. Value Report 2010-11.
26 Jul

Wield the Power of a Good Auto Loan

The car you drive can say a lot about you. So if you’re stuck with an unpredictable clunker prone to breakdowns, your car may be saying all the wrong things. The truth is that a reliable car and a low-rate auto loan can make a measurable difference in your life. A dependable vehicle can:

Increase your confidence. A vehicle should support your lifestyle, not hinder it. An unreliable car can make you late for work or job interviews, force you to forgo social commitments or even prevent you from being there for your friends or family. A dependable vehicle can significantly reduce your stress and boost your self-assurance – especially if the car has more safety features to protect the driver and loved ones.

Be greener. Today’s cars use less fuel and spit fewer harmful chemicals into the air than models from just a few years ago.

Spend less. Trading in a gas-guzzler for a newer, more efficient model can help you save on fuel – and the more you drive, the more you save. A newer car may also require fewer costly visits to the repair shop. And a lower-rate loan can reduce your monthly payment and add up to considerable savings over the life of the loan.

Thankfully, there are great deals on auto loans, and you need look no further than Navigator. We offer a variety of financing terms and rates as low as 2.99% APR* to help you afford a vehicle you can trust. Just in case the unthinkable happens, we also offer GAP insurance coverage for auto loans.

Visit www.navigatorcu.org or call 228-475-7300 today to learn more. Let a new car and a fair auto loan empower you.

*
APR = annual percentage rate. Rate subject to change without notice.
26 Jul

Finding a Balance How to Save for Retirement and Send the Kids to College

As a parent, you may have lofty goals to save early and often for your child’s college education while also saving for your retirement. But as life unfolds your plans may take a detour, especially in the aftermath of stock market volatility and a tough economy. Perhaps your retirement accounts have taken a hit and you’re looking for ways to build them up. At the same time, kids may need help paying for rising college costs.

Many parents wonder:

  • Should I focus on saving for retirement or college?
  • Should I save for both goals equally?
  • Should I save more for the goal that comes first chronologically?

The answers depend on your unique situation, but in general, it makes sense to put your retirement savings first. Students have numerous opportunities to manage college costs, from taking out low-interest student loans to choosing a less-expensive school or working through college. They have decades to pay off the debt, whereas your retirement horizon may be approaching quickly.

Before the College Years

Maximize retirement savings first. If your employer matches your contributions up to a certain amount, make sure to contribute enough to receive this benefit. Try to increase your contributions each year, or whenever you get a raise. Keep in mind that retirement assets are sheltered from the aid formulas used to calculate student aid, so it can be beneficial to build up funds in your retirement accounts vs. other taxable accounts.

Save for college next. Consider directing additional savings to a 529 college savings plan. Contributions compound on a tax-deferred basis and are tax-exempt when the money is used for qualified higher education expenses. Family members can contribute as well, so you may encourage grandparents and other relatives to contribute to your child’s 529 plan instead of giving cash gifts.

While the Kids Are in College

Leave retirement assets alone. You may decide to reduce retirement contributions in order to help with tuition payments. However, you should avoid withdrawing money from retirement accounts to pay for college. Doing so may shortchange your retirement future and reduce next year’s financial aid eligibility, since retirement distributions are considered taxable income.

Consider other sources of funding. Financial aid, student loans, scholarships and grants may help fund higher education if your child qualifies.

After Graduation

Refocus on retirement savings. With college bills out of the way, make it your mission to ramp up contributions to your retirement plan. If your finances are in great shape, you may have the flexibility to help your child pay off student loan debt in the future, should you choose to be so generous!

Ask a financial advisor for help setting your savings strategies for retirement and college education. Contact Jeffrey Hamm at Navigator Financial Planning Services at 228-474-3427 to review your options.

 
Representative is not a tax advisor or legal expert. For information regarding specific tax situations, please contact a tax professional. For legal advice, consult an attorney.
 
Representatives are registered, securities are sold and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free (866) 512-6109. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members.
26 Jul

Extend the Life of Your Belongings

Saving money is most people’s mantra in this economy. While prices of necessities like gas and groceries continue to rise, most of us are looking for ways to save money in other areas.

By taking care of things you’ve already spent money on – especially big-ticket items – you can delay the need to replace them, perhaps for years. Take a look around and evaluate where you could extend the life of your stuff.

Maximize the Life of a Product

The kitchen: Ranges and refrigerators can have long lives if treated right. Burners on gas model ranges should be inspected regularly and the burner ports cleaned carefully. Refrigerator door gaskets should be cleaned with water and mild detergent. The condenser coil should be dusted or vacuumed at least once a year too. The filters on dishwashers should also be checked regularly for debris.

The living room: Your living or family room can easily be the most used room of the house. Carpets and rugs tend to be abused the most, so think about having them cleaned professionally every year or so. Use pads under smaller rugs and rotate them often. Regularly clean TV screens and make sure the air vents are not blocked so the TV doesn’t overheat. Your computer should have up-to-date antivirus software. Always shut your computer down before moving it.

Lawn and garden: Lawn mowers should have blades sharpened at least once a mowing season and the underside cleaned of grass and debris after each use. Check the owner’s manual for battery maintenance for your mower – keep it charged year-round if needed.

The car: Tires are a necessity we often don’t think about until a problem arises. Consult your owner’s manual for information about inspecting them for wear, and always keep them properly inflated.

Washer and dryer: Take care not to overload the washer. For front-load washers, keep the door ajar after each use to allow air circulation and prevent mold. Clean the lint filter after each use of the dryer, and clean the air duct at least once a year.

Save for Your Next Big Purchase

Save as you spend with a Save’N Up account at Navigator. The Save’N Up Debit Card can help you build savings while you’re spending. When your well-cared-for items finally need to be replaced, consider using your savings to pay for them outright rather than having to take on debt. Call us today to open an account at 228-475-7300 or visit us online at www.navigatorcu.org.

24 Jul

Are You Worried Sick about Debt?

With the current shaky economy, many people know that the stress of having too much debt can be a pain in the neck. But did you realize that it can also – literally – be a pain in the back, the head and the stomach? A poll conducted for the Associated Press and AOL found that people with higher levels of stress caused by debt reported more health problems than those without much stress from debt.

Americans may be just sick over the state of the economy, but there are steps you can take to keep your debt load and stress level in check. Here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful and hopefully you will too:

Create a realistic budget so you can live within your means. Write down everything you spend for a couple months, then look for places to trim expenses. You might also want to consider ways you could boost your income.

Contact your creditors if you’re having trouble making payments. It may be uncomfortable, but dealing with financial problems head on is the most effective way to keep them from escalating.

Seek expert help. A Certified Financial Counselor at Navigator Credit Union can help you analyze your situation and find a way to pay off debt. Consolidating your debt may lower your monthly payment and total interest charges.

Learn healthy ways to deal with stress. You may have other pressures in your life, too, such as work or family. Handling stress in a healthy manner – and steering clear of counterproductive strategies such as abusing alcohol, overeating or isolating yourself – can help keep stress from affecting your health..

Part of our mission is to help you achieve financial success – and we have all the right tools to do just that. Give us a call if you need help getting your debt under control. Ask how you can consolidate debt to create a little breathing room in your budget. 

Warmest regards,

Laurin F. Avara
President & CEO

24 Jul

Caribbean Watermelon Salsa

Try this mouth-watering salsa with lime tortilla chips, cinnamon tortilla chips or pita chips.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Number of servings: 8

Ingredients

2 cups watermelon, chopped and seeded
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon jerk seasoning

Directions

In large bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Refrigerate, covered, at least one hour to blend flavors. Stir before serving.

Recipe courtesy of CDC. 

23 Jul

Spotlight on … the Summer Olympic Games

Three cheers for London: The 2012 Olympic Games mark the third time London, England, has hosted the summer games – more than any other city. London was a previous host city in 1908 and 1948.

The 1948 Olympic Games were the first games shown on home television.

Women’s boxing will be an Olympic competition for the first time at the 2012 games.

The first Olympic Games to have a mascot were the Munich games in 1972. The Munich mascot was Waldi the dachshund. The 2012 London mascots are cartoon animations Wenlock (Olympic Games) and Mandeville (Paralympics).

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will host the next summer Olympic Games in 2016. It will become the first South American city to host the Olympic Games.

Sources: Top End Sports (

www.topendsports.com

) and London 2012

NAME THAT CITY

Cities, like people, have very interesting and unique nicknames that set them apart from others. Try to match the U.S. city on the left with its popular nickname on the right. You may even find your own hometown on the list!

matching game consisting of cities and their nicknames

Answers

23 Jul

Save Time and MoneyAutomate Your Finances

Have you ever had to pay a late fee because you simply forgot to pay a bill? Or inadvertently spent money you intended to put into savings?

Automating many of your everyday financial transactions can help you save money and stay on track to meeting your financial goals. As a bonus, it frees up extra time that you no longer have to spend managing finances. Use this handy checklist to see how you can simplify your life.

  • Use Direct Deposit for immediate access to your money, even when you’re away from home.
  • Set up Automatic Transfers to your savings account to “pay yourself first.”
  • Use online Bill Pay to pay monthly bills with just a few clicks, or set up recurring payments.
  • Set up e-Alerts to notify you when your balance reaches a certain level, a transaction has cleared, a bill is due and much more.

You can create a system where you’re doing the right things by default and making your life easier. Call Navigator at 228-475-7300 or visit www.navigatorcu.org to learn more.

23 Jul

6 Tips for Traveling with Friends

If you remember the popular 1950s sitcom, “I Love Lucy,” you may recall that best friends and neighbors, Lucy and Desi Arnaz and Ethel and Fred Mertz, loved doing everything together. A group vacation, however, nearly ruined their friendship.

Lots of friends decide that taking a vacation together could be more enjoyable than traveling alone. With these common sense tips you can help ensure that you remain friends following the trip, too.

  1. Share the planning. Selecting a destination and what activities you’ll be doing can be great fun when it’s a group decision. Perhaps you share a common interest or hobby, such as touring museums or playing golf. Consider planning your trip around what you have in common.

  2. Make advance arrangements. Booking travel, accommodations and some activity reservations ahead of time can reduce decision making and stress during the trip itself.

  3. Respect each other’s budgets. If one friend has a stricter travel budget than the others, consider making choices that stay within monetary guidelines for all parties.

  4. Look out for each other. A major benefit of traveling in a group is greater safety. You can also help each other if anyone needs assistance.

  5. Be willing to compromise. Unplanned opportunities may pop up during your travels. Don’t be afraid to stray from your itinerary to stroll through a street bazaar or stop for photo opportunities. Try to be flexible so that everyone gets to do something that interests them.

  6. Remember you are friends. Most trips come with minor setbacks. Going with the flow and respecting each other’s feelings goes a long way toward remaining friends once back home.

Your Financial Travel Companion

Your Navigator debit card or credit card makes managing vacation finances convenient and secure. Your card makes it easy to book flights and accommodations in advance and pay for purchases during your travels.

23 Jul

Income That Lasts a Lifetime

Imagine this … opening up your mailbox and seeing a paycheck month after month for the rest of your life – guaranteed! And what’s even better? That paycheck could go up each year to help keep pace with inflation.

One way to make sure that you always have money coming in during retirement, in addition to Social Security and any pension payment you receive, is to turn part of your savings into payments that are guaranteed to last for the rest of your life.

An income annuity, technically called an immediate income annuity, allows you to maximize your income while ensuring that you won’t run out of money.

The range of payout options include guaranteed monthly payments for life – income you cannot outlive. Not only does your annuity have a variety of lifetime income options for you, but it also offers joint income for you and a loved one or guaranteed income for just a set period of time.

I can help build a plan for your retirement income … a plan designed to provide peace of mind and reduce the worry about whether your money will last.

Give me a call at 228-474-3427 to schedule a no cost, no obligation appointment. I look forward to talking with you soon.

 
Representative is not a tax advisor or legal expert. For information regarding specific tax situations, please contact a tax professional. For legal advice, consult an attorney.
Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free (866) 512-6109. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members.
FR061007-CEAE

JEFF HAMM WINS CUNA AWARD

Congratulations to Jeff Hamm, the 2011 CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. Perspectives Award recipient. Hamm, honored on a national level as the TOP Advisor in Overall Achievement, humbly accepted this award at the recent 2012 Focus Conference. Hamm was the sole recipient of the 2011 Perspectives Award and was recognized for upholding the highest standard of ethics, professionalism and attitude while substantially improving production and member relationships. Hamm was selected for this award by a committee comprised of Senior Industry Professionals and members of the CBSI Management Team. Navigator Credit Union is proud to have Jeff Hamm at the helm of its Navigator Financial Planning Services Program. Way to go, Jeff, for achieving this milestone in your career!