01 Jul

Open the Door to a Remodel Plan that Pays Off

Trying to sell or thinking about it?

Home prices may be up in your neighborhood — more reason to invest in your home to get the best price if you’re planning to sell. Despite what conventional wisdom says, most of the home improvement projects with the greatest return on investment are not so glamorous. Did you know a new front door ranks at the top of the list? According to a recent report from Remodeling magazine, sellers recoup 66 cents of every $1 they spend on the average remodeling project.

Before you splurge, consider these three upgrades and fixes. They won’t break the bank, but could pay off and help you clinch a deal if you’re serious about selling:

1. Create space. Knock out a non-structural wall, or remove that kitchen island. Anything that opens space and creates a sense of flow is advantageous.

2. Prune and landscape. Tangled trees and unkempt bushes can obscure views and darken interiors.

3. Address the basics. Insulate the attic, repair plumbing leaks or replace rusty rain gutters. These fixes can go a long way toward boosting value.

If improving resale value and recovering remodeling costs are important to you, consult with a real estate agent first, then make it happen with a home equity loan from Navigator Credit Union. Learn more here. 

RENOVATIONS WITH THE GREATEST RETURN ON INVESTMENT

If you’re considering a home improvement project to boost the quality and appeal of your home, here are some ideas that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.*

97%
Entry door replacement: 96.6%
87%
Deck addition (wood): 87.4%
84%
Attic bedroom: 84.3%
84%
Garage door replacement: 83.7%
83%
Minor kitchen remodel: 82.7%

* Source: Remodeling magazine 2014 Cost vs. Value report, www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2014/

16 Apr

9 Signs You Need Life Insurance

If you think life insurance is only for people with kids, you may be missing out on an important financial planning tool. Ask yourself these questions to find out if you should take a closer look at your needs for life insurance.

1. Do you have a spouse or partner?

Anyone who depends on you may suffer a financial setback if something happens to you, and naming them as beneficiaries in your life insurance policy may give you peace of mind.

2. Do you have kids?

You want to do everything in your power to safeguard your child’s financial future. If you’re a single parent, you have even more responsibility resting on your shoulders. Life insurance can take care of their immediate expenses and provide funds for college and other future needs.

3. Do you provide financial help to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews or other loved ones?

Anyone who depends on you may suffer a financial setback if something happens to you, and naming them as beneficiaries in your life insurance policy may give you peace of mind.

4. Are you a caregiver for aging parents or family members with special needs?

The care you provide (including basic help with household or transportation needs) is important to your loved one’s quality of life. Life insurance can help cover the costs of their care if you’re not there.

5. Are you a stay-at-home parent?

You provide valuable support to the family, and it’s important to factor in the value that you bring to the family when considering life insurance needs.

6. Do you have grown children?

Even if your children are grown, there may be ups and downs as they find their way in the world. Life insurance may not be as critical at this stage as it was when they were small, but it can provide financial stability for your children if you die.

7. Do you own a small business?

A life insurance policy can be structured to protect your business and your family. For example, a policy could provide funds for a buy-sell agreement to sell your interest in the company and provide proceeds to your heirs.

8. Are you focused on charitable giving?

(And do you wish to name an organization as a life insurance beneficiary?) A life insurance payout can continue a legacy of donations to an organization you support financially.

9. Are you retired?

Life insurance may be instrumental in achieving your goals. For example, you may want to leave an inheritance for heirs or pay final expenses (funeral and burial costs) through life insurance.

Find out more about how life insurance can help protect your family’s future. Contact an insurance professional at Navigator Credit Union at (228) 474-3427 or at www.navigatorcu.org.
16 Apr

To Have and To Hold: Investing Strategies for Newlyweds

Congratulations on your big day! The early days of wedded bliss are full of exciting changes and adjustments. Among the most important: Planning for your joint financial future. Say “I do” to these steps toward building a solid fiscal partnership:

Update financial paperwork.

Add your spouse as the beneficiary on any insurance policies and financial accounts, such as 401(k)s. Consider designating your spouse as your power of attorney and health care proxy, so he or she can make decisions about your finances and care in the event you’re unable to make decisions for yourself. If you haven’t created a will, now is the time to get started.

Talk about your goals.

Together, discuss your values and financial history and how they’ve shaped your attitudes toward money. When you understand where your partner is coming from, it’s easier to strategize on future plans. Talk about what you hope to achieve this year, in five years, 10 years and so on.

Establish a budget.

Start by looking at your income and spending habits — from fixed costs like housing and car payments to variable expenses like groceries, utilities and entertainment. If you aren’t sure what you’re spending in certain categories, tracking your spending for a month or two can be an eye-opening experience. Create a budget to account for all of your financial obligations and savings goals. Some experts recommend aiming to save 20 percent of your income — 10 percent toward building an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses and 10 percent toward retirement. If you have debt or accelerated savings goals (like saving for a down payment in the next year or retiring early), you may need to adjust your saving percentages accordingly.

Create an investment plan.

Once you know your savings goals, you’ll need to determine where you’ll stash your cash. Explore your tolerance for risk — are you conservative savers who like guaranteed returns or aggressive investors who are comfortable with the volatility of the market? Your risk tolerance and time horizon can help define the investment vehicles you use. Most experts recommend low-risk federally insured accounts, like money market accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs), for short-term goals and higher-risk options that offer the potential for higher returns, like stocks or mutual funds, for long-term goals.

Schedule ongoing “state of the union” discussions.

Assess your budget, goal progress and any setbacks often. Have you received a raise or lost a source of income? Have your priorities or timelines changed? How do those changes affect your plans? Like other aspects of your marriage, maintaining open communication can help you stay the course together.

READY TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FINANCIAL FUTURE?
The experienced professionals at Navigator Credit Union can help you create a financial plan for your needs and goals. Call (228) 474-3427 to schedule an appointment today.

Investment products:
Not federally insured
Not a deposit of this institution
May lose value

16 Apr

College Degrees Still Make the Grade

With the rising costs of attending college, much debate has occurred in recent years about the value of a college education. Yet, a recent examination by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that over the past decade, the rate of return on a college degree has remained fairly consistent at around 15 percent.* This rate of return is the difference between wages for individuals who have a college degree versus those with only a high school diploma after accounting for the cost of college. This return rate remained steady for both bachelor’s and associate degrees. The report found that despite changes in the economy, a college education continues to be a valuable asset in creating higher lifelong earnings. So how do you ensure your child is able to afford college once he or she is ready?

College Saving Strategies

While the advantage of a college degree is clear, the price of college continues to increase year-after-year, creating a challenge for many families. But, there are a number of ways, both traditional and creative, that you can use to help your child be financially prepared for college:

Open a college savings account for your child. Navigator Credit Union offers a variety of savings vehicles including Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and 529 College Savings Plans. Both of these savings accounts are a great way to invest long-term in your child’s education. These tax-advantaged accounts allow anyone to contribute including parents, grandparents, other relatives or family friends. Which brings us
to our next tip:

Suggest relatives contribute. Many people, including grandparents and other relatives, want to see your child succeed. Consider asking them to contribute to your child’s savings in lieu of extravagant gifts during the holidays or for birthdays. While of course your child will enjoy some presents, think about giving smaller gifts and putting the difference into saving for their future.

Continue “paying” expenses you’re used to. As your child grows, there will be a number of expenses that arise and eventually are no longer needed — such as money for diapers, baby-sitting or braces. Instead of forgetting about these costs once your child outgrows them, start putting that money toward your child’s college savings.

Here For You and Your Child’s Future

Getting started on saving for your child’s educational future doesn’t have to be confusing or difficult. The investment professionals at Navigator Credit Union can help you decide the right strategy for your family. Contact us today by calling (228) 474-3427 or visiting us online at https://navigatorcu.org to help your child prepare for the rewards of a college degree.

* Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York. www.newyorkfed.org.
Investment products:
Not federally insured
Not a deposit of this institution
May lose value

16 Apr

Diversification, Patience & ConsistencyThree important factors when it comes to your financial life.

Provided by Jeffrey C. Hamm

Regardless of how the markets may perform, consider making the following part of your investment philosophy:

Diversification.

The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has real value when it comes to investing. In a bear OR bull market, certain asset classes may perform better than others if your assets are mostly held in one kind of investment (say, mostly in mutual funds, or mostly in CDs or money market accounts), you could be hit hard by stock market losses, or alternately lose out on potential gains that other kinds of investments may be experiencing. So there is an opportunity cost as well as risk.

This is why asset allocation strategies are used in portfolio management. A financial professional can ask you about your goals, tolerance for risk, and assign percentages of your assets to different classes of investments. This diversification is designed to suit your preferred investment style and your objectives.

Patience.

Impatient investors obsess on the day-to-day doings of the stock market. Have you ever heard of “stock picking” or “market timing”? How about “day trading”? These are all attempts to exploit short-term fluctuations in value. These investing methods might seem fun and exciting if you like to micromanage, but they could add stress and anxiety to your life, and they may be a poor alternative to a long-range investment strategy built around your life goals.

Consistency.

Most people invest a little at a time, within their budget, and with regularity. They invest $50 or $100 or more per month in their 401(k) and similar investments through payroll deduction or automatic withdrawal. In essence, they are investing on “autopilot” to help themselves build wealth for retirement and for long-range goals. Investing regularly (and earlier in life) helps you to take advantage of the power of compounding as well.

If you don’t have a long-range investment strategy, talk to a qualified financial advisor today.

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 800-369-2862. 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.

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.

16 Apr

Trusts — An Often-misunderstood Estate-planning Tool

Does a trust suggest an image of “trust fund babies” living a life of leisure on their inherited money? The truth is, trusts aren’t useful only for the wealthy. When set up properly, trusts can provide benefits to even those with modest means.

What’s a trust?

A trust is an arrangement with three main parties:

  1. A trustee (usually a third party) who holds the assets in the trust.
  2. A grantor, who sets up the trust and provides the assets.
  3. A beneficiary, (or beneficiaries), the person or persons who will ultimately benefit from the trust.

There are two major types. An irrevocable trust, as the name implies, cannot be changed once it is set up. A revocable trust can be changed at any time during the grantor’s lifetime. Usually, a revocable trust becomes irrevocable when the grantor dies.

Who Can Benefit from a Trust?

Depending on how they’re set up, trusts can help:

  • Avoid probate. Probate is the legal process of proving a will, which can be lengthy and expensive. If you leave property to someone in a will, it must go through probate. Property left in a trust usually does not go through probate, so the beneficiary may receive the assets more quickly at lower cost to the estate.
  • Ensure privacy. Probate is public record. A trust is generally private.
  • Provide control. A trust can allow you to determine how and when assets are distributed to the beneficiary. For example, rather than leave a lump sum to your beneficiary, a trust can allow you to parcel out the money over time, or when a milestone — such as completing a college education — is reached.
  • Protect your family. For example, if you’ve been married more than once and have children from a previous marriage, a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust can provide income to your surviving spouse and pass the remaining assets onto other beneficiaries upon the second spouse’s death. In another example, a special needs trust can help ensure that a child with special needs has access to funds to enhance his or her quality of life, without losing any government benefits to which he or she may be entitled.
  • Minimize estate taxes. Certain irrevocable trusts may remove assets from your estate, potentially saving on estate taxes.
  • Fulfill charitable goals. For example, a charitable remainder trust can be constructed to provide income to you during your lifetime or a period you specify, with any remaining assets going to the charity upon your death.

Put Your Trust in Us

The trust and estate planning professionals at Navigator Credit Union can work with you and your attorney to determine if a trust would be beneficial in your situation. Give us a call at (228) 474-3427 to learn more.

16 Apr

Free Stuff Online: Not Just a Myth

When you’re in need of a microwave, rocking chair or tennis racket, is your first instinct to head to the mall? You may be surprised to learn that you can actually use the Internet to find these types of items for cheap — or even free!

Sites like Craigslist, eBay and local exchange sites are increasingly being use to unload items people no longer need. Users may be moving or remodeling, want to avoid the hassle of selling, or be looking for a green way to recycle items they don’t need any more. Here are a few tips to score big and avoid pitfalls:

  • Take your time. If you don’t need an item right away, keep searching until you find the right one.
  • Don’t feel obligated. Often users will post items at flattering angles or omit details. Don’t take an item that you’ll just end up getting rid of yourself.
  • Stay safe. Never go alone to pick up an item. Try to meet in a neutral public place like a coffee shop.
16 Apr

How to Begin Building a Strong Credit History

There are many reasons why having a strong credit history is important. It can affect everything from your ability to rent an apartment to getting a good job.

Payment history and credit score are two of the most important factors contributing to a positive, healthy credit record. Individuals who demonstrate personal responsibility by paying back the money they borrow — on time, every time — are typically rewarded with higher credit scores. A high credit score, in turn, shows lenders that you are worthy of trust for even more credit. (Scores range from 300 to 850, the higher the better.) And, utilizing credit wisely opens the door to meeting your financial goals — both short- and long-term.

If you are just beginning to utilize credit, here are some tips for starting off on the right foot:

Use your credit card(s) wisely.

It’s true that you need to use credit to build credit and having a credit card is one way to start. But rather than using a credit card sporadically, consider charging small amounts regularly that you can afford to pay off every month. Also limit how many credit cards you apply for — two is a good number — with one of the cards being a VISA® from Navigator Credit Union.

Avoid using all your available credit.

Each credit card comes with a pre-established credit limit. Don’t top out your card by using all your available credit. It’s too easy to go over your credit limit and potential lenders don’t like to see maxedout cards. Instead, use 10 percent to 30 percent of what’s available to you.

Apply for a car loan.

Making affordable, monthly car payments is an excellent way to build a healthy payment history. A car loan represents a different type of loan than a credit card. You are borrowing a fixed amount with a specific payment and repayment term. You may need a co-signer, such as a parent, for a car loan.

Keep track of your credit.

It’s a smart idea to check your credit report at least once a year for possible errors. There are three main credit-reporting companies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, and you are allowed a free credit report from each every 12 months. You can check your credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com.

We Can Help

Whether it’s a credit card or an auto loan, Navigator Credit Union can help you on your way to building a strong credit history. Come in and meet with one of our representatives today.

A WORD TO THE WISE
While you can recover from credit missteps — such as missing a payment or going over your credit limit — it can take up to seven years for your credit score to recover after a significant drop.
16 Apr

Tame Your Credit Card Debt

You’re a young adult, starting to build your career. You’re trying to juggle student loan payments, pay your rent and cover other bills, so it’s tempting to rely on a credit card to get you through next payday. No big deal, right?

Think again. One of the first lessons of young adulthood: It’s much easier to get into debt than out of it.

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the average 25- to 34-year-old carries $5,000 in credit card debt. If that debt isn’t managed well or it grows bigger, imagine the interest you’d be paying on that latte or pair of shoes you couldn’t live without at the time. Before you go wild with the plastic, these five tips will help you maintain control of your debt.

» Tip #1 Don’t spend more than you earn.

A survey by Renters.com says young adult renters overspent their income by $100 each month. Avoid using credit cards for everyday purchases that could easily be paid with cash. Remember too, willpower goes a long way.

» Tip #2 Get a handle on what you owe.

If you carry a balance on one or more cards, the key is to pay more than the minimum each month to reduce the debt more quickly or, better yet, pay the balance in full. These good habits will help establish a strong credit history.

» Tip #3 Close your eyes when you get the mail.

Avoid the temptation of the parade of credit card offers that entice you with low introductory rates and balance transfers. Applying for new cards all the time can ding your credit score.

» Tip #4 Stick to a budget.

By balancing your income against expenses, you’ll keep a firm grip on wasteful spending. If rent, transportation and food eat up the greatest share of your monthly budget, then consider living with a roommate or several, carpool to work at least a few times a week, and dine in instead of out. You may miss the social scene, but your wallet won’t.

» Tip #5 Build up some emergency savings.

Setting aside a little every month avoids the need to put a surprise expense on a credit card. Medical or car troubles can rack up debt in no time. An emergency fund will make it a lot easier to handle when you least expect the unexpected.

Now that you have tips to tame your debt, want something to roar about? Consider a low or no fee credit card from Navigator Credit Union. There are options fit for you, your goals and your lifestyle. Visit www.navigatorcu.org or call (228) 475-7300.

20 Jan

Ready to Retire? Don’t Make These Common Mistakes

For most people retirement is something that happens only once in a lifetime. So it’s no surprise that many people make mistakes when first starting out. Luckily, there are ways to avoid some of these universal mistakes if you know what to watch out for. Here are some of the most common mishaps and how to avoid them.

  1. Lacking a life plan. Retirement is a difficult journey to travel without a map. Failure to plan properly for your retirement is almost certain to cause problems — and not just financially. Entering retirement involves a drastic change in lifestyle, and those that fail to plan for this new phase in their lives may be lost with all the changes. Be sure that you have a definitive plan for how you will spend your time and your money in retirement.
  2. Overspending. At first glance, retirement may seem like a time when you can get by on less, being without the costs associated with a job. However, retirement leaves you with a great deal of time on your hands — time that many people fill by shopping or taking lavish vacations. These splurges can add up quickly, derailing retirement goals fast. Watch your spending, especially in the first years of retirement, to be sure you are left with sustainable income for the years ahead.
  3. Claiming Social Security too early. Deciding when to claim Social Security can have a big impact on monthly benefits. Unfortunately, most people claim Social Security as early as they are able, regardless of whether the income is needed. Consider waiting until you can receive maximum benefits from Social Security if your retirement income can sustain you in the meantime.
  4. Being overly conservative with investments. There was a time when investing in low-risk options such as CDs and bonds could sustain a comfortable retirement. But in today’s world, the returns on these vehicles often don’t outpace inflation, and with retirees living longer than ever, this approach is doubly dangerous. Be sure your retirement investments allow room for growth to create income throughout your retirement.
  5. Retiring too early. The good news is — we are living longer than ever. The bad news is — we are living longer than ever. Individuals must plan for retirements that are much longer than generations past, meaning more savings are needed to last for a longer time. But, many people nearing retirement age are also in good health and very capable of continuing to work. Putting off retirement for a few years, if you are able, is a great way to give a last minute boost to savings that can make a big difference in your retirement income.

We’ve Been There Before

While it may be your first time dealing with the new world of retirement, our investment professionals at Navigator Credit Union have years of experience in helping individuals avoid these and other retirement mistakes. Schedule a consultation today to get expert guidance. Call (228) 474-3427 for more information.