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Don’t Let Thieves Get in the Way of Your Holiday Cheer.

With the holidays upon us, it’s important to be careful when shopping both in-store and online. Thieves are particularly active during this time of year so be extra careful. Here are a few helpful tips to keep your holiday season full of fun.

  • Keep your friends close and your credit cards closer. – According to several surveys, the average American carries eight cards with them at any given time, which thieves are well aware of. So a great first step is to only take one or two credit or debit cards with you while shopping. Also, keeping a close eye on your wallet or purse goes a long way toward keeping your money out of thieves’ hands.
  • Check your purchases frequently. – The only way to catch fraud is to be looking for it. Logging on to GTNet at least a couple of times a week is really important during this busy time. If you see a purchase you didn’t make, contact us immediately so we can take the proper steps to stop the activity.
  • Know who you’re doing business with. – This is especially important for online purchases as scammers create deep discount websites during the holidays to lure in cost-conscious shoppers. Only use sites you are familiar with and be sure the site uses “https://” instead of “http://” in the web address. The “s” at the end of “http” stands for secure and denotes a higher level of encryption.
 

All I Want for Christmas is…Peace of Mind.

With the holidays upon us, it is easy to get carried away in the spend-spend-spend mentality. But one of the most important gifts you can give yourself and your family is peace of mind when it comes to your finances. Bankrate.com recently released results of a survey that showed 28% of Americans have no emergency savings whatsoever. If you’re in that boat, make it a priority to put money into an emergency fund before the end of the year.

While financial advisors differ on how much savings consumers need accumulated (3, 6, or 9 month’s salary) it is important to start somewhere.  Setting a goal of $1,000 is a great starting point because for most families it is possible to save that much in 3-6 months, and it is more than enough to cover the amount of your average-sized financial emergency (car repair, minor medical, etc.). Once that goal has been reached, get strategic about paying off debt and saving up to whatever multiple of your monthly salary you feel comfortable with.

Lastly, don’t fret when you have an emergency. Because, let’s face it, emergencies are inevitable. The money in your savings is there for a reason. Use it, replace it, feel at peace.

 

 

Holiday Shopping Strategy 101

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like I need a PhD in strategic management to make it through the holiday buying season. Between family and friends, I seem to have an ever-growing list of people to shop for this year and the window to get everything done in is shrinking by the minute. If you’re like me, then check out these tips on how to get it all done without going broke.

  • Create a Budget – Write down the names of everyone you want to buy for and an amount you want to spend for each name.  When you add up the amounts, make sure the total is something you can live with. There’s nothing worse than giving with a cheerful heart but a negative checking account.
  • Look for Deals – Stretch your dollars by paying attention to Groupon, Living Social, Sweet Jack and other daily deal websites.  You can save quite a bit by following the deals these sites offer. Also, if you’re stuck about what to buy, think about experience gifts. Concert tickets, sporting events, classes and outdoor activities are all great ideas for gifts.
  • Reward Yourself Too, Just Not Too Much – Getting into the holiday shopping season is great, but just be careful. Many shoppers end up spending an amount equal to their budget on themselves. It’s perfectly fine to reward yourself (there’s a Pumpkin Spiced Latte in my future, or two) but the best idea is to budget for yourself too.

Source: www.clarkhoward.com

 

Big Business in Texas is Really Small Business

A recent survey published on Money.com came out ranking the top seven cities in the US for entrepreneurs to start a business. The criteria ranged from access to capital, competitive tax structure, regulations and small business support. The great news is that three of the top seven are located right here in Texas. So if you’re looking to start a business, now, or in the future, be sure to check out all the resources these cities have to offer.

Coming in at #2 is Dallas–Fort Worth

One key takeaway:

But what really makes it stand apart is the age at which residents become entrepreneurs. Unlike in West Coast states or New England, where young MBAs reign supreme, age and experience hold weight. The vast majority of startups are launched by successful, mid-career corporate types, according to Jeremy Vickers, the Dallas Regional Chamber's director of innovation.

At #3 is San Antonio

Companies also benefit from low taxes and sweeping tort reform measures taken during the 1990s.

Additionally, the availability of training and support is highly regarded by small business owners, who can easily tap the many local colleges and a robust Small Business Development Center.

And at #4 is Austin

It's a breeze to start there, according to insurance agent Angela Smucker. She began anew in Austin last year after health problems sunk her long-running business in Wisconsin in 2008. She says local programs like BiGAUSTIN provide major help.

"There are lots of free or inexpensive resources for people like me," she said. "Even if you don't need them, you benefit from that type of atmosphere."

 

Am I Saving Enough?

One of the things most people ask themselves sooner or later is “am I saving enough for retirement?” While the answer is always specific to the individual’s circumstances, wouldn’t it be nice to have a rough guideline to see if you’re on track? Well Time magazine recently ran an article detailing just that. Here are a few of the key findings:

  • At age 35, you should have saved an amount equal to your annual salary.
  • At 45, you should have saved three times your salary.
  • At 55, five times your salary in retirement accounts.
  • And finally, by age 67, you should have somewhere close to eight times your pay.

While there are many assumptions factored into these target numbers (you can read more about them at the link below), having these ranges can be a huge help in determining whether you’re making progress towards your financial goals. Also, if you’ve been doing your retirement planning alone, seeing where you are now can help in figuring out if you need a professional advisor going forward.

Source: www.time.com

 

 

When is the Right Time to Buy?

Let’s face it, there are many ways to save money when you want to buy an item. From looking online for a deal, to negotiating a better price, to foregoing the purchase altogether, we’re all familiar with the traditional methods of saving a buck. But have you ever thought about when you buy being just as important as those traditional factors? Here’s a list of items that you can save money on when you exert a little patience.

Autos:  While most car experts advise buying used, if you do intend to buy a new vehicle, look at purchasing the current year model in late summer. At that point in the year, auto dealers will be looking to make room for next year’s model giving you a good shot at negotiating a favorable price.

Appliances:  Early fall is the best time to shop for appliances. Also, when buying these items, consider the energy efficient upgrades you will be getting. Sometimes the least expensive model up front is not the most cost efficient choice in the long run.

Furniture: While furniture outlets often have “sales” going on year-round, there are two good times of year to purchase these items. The first, for low to moderately priced furniture, is just after the holiday season in January. The other is during July when many homeowners are preparing to sell their homes.

Source: investopedia.com

 

International Credit Union Day

International Credit Union Day is this Thursday, the 18th. This year’s celebration is even more special as 2012 has been named the International Year of the Cooperative. Did you know that credit unions are cooperatively run businesses? You may be asking though, what is a cooperative? Great question! As a member of Greater TEXAS FCU, you are not a customer – you’re an owner. We follow 7 principles that govern how we do business together:

1)  Voluntary Membership – When you join a credit union, you agree to be a part of an organization that works to help people, while not discriminating on a gender, social, racial, political or religious basis.

2)  Democratic Member Control – Through the election of a volunteer member-only board of directors.

3)  Member’s Economic Participation – Wonder what the $5 that’s held in your savings account is all about? That’s your buy-in to become an owner in the credit union. This principle also means that the more you use the credit union’s services the more you benefit through lower fees and better rates on savings and loans.

4)  Autonomy & Independence – There are no outside investors in credit unions. No one gets a say that isn’t a member.

5)  Education, Training & Information – Credit unions work to educate their members on how to save money and manage debt wisely.

6)  Cooperation Among Cooperatives – Working with other credit unions and associations to help local communities is an important element in how credit unions do business.

7)  Social Responsibility – Credit unions work to meet the financial needs of their members so they can build a better life for themselves and their families.

 

Public Service Announcement

Did you purchase a Carfax Vehicle History Report in Texas between October 1, 1998 and December 31, 2007? If so, you are now eligible to join a class action lawsuit against Carfax Inc. A proposed settlement has been reached in the case (Davis v. Carfax, Inc) and awaits final approval from the courts early next year. Effected members should visit daviscarsettlement.com for more information on the case and to review claim options. A toll-free number has also been setup for questions and general info at (866) 220-4002.

Hat tip to: John Adams at autopi.com

 

Barbie Can Wait

It’s a given that every parent wants the best for their kids. In a recent American Express study, 91% of respondents indicated they are committed to teaching their children about financial responsibility. But with our ever increasingly busy lives, many parents are asking what specific areas to focus on. Below, are three areas to get your kids started on the right path.

  • Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees (unless you’re picking apples) – Experts almost universally conclude that linking money with work (from an early age) is crucial in the financial education of children. So instead of giving out an allowance, have your kids perform reasonable tasks around the house to earn money. The key is that they truly earn it. Paying only for timely and sufficient work will instill the concept of discipline and set the right tone for when he/she enters the workforce.
  • Set Up A 401(Save) – Another tip is to match a portion of any amount your child saves. Think about the typical 401(K) when structuring this agreement. One idea is to match $1 on every $5 your child saves. Whatever amount you come up with, make sure your child saves something every time he/she earns money. Establishing a sense of delayed gratification has been found to be one of the keys to success in school and early adulthood.
  • “But mom, just use your card!” – No matter how much money you may earn, kids need to understand that there are limits to what your family, and by extension they, can spend. Helping to explain how a budget works, the proper use of credit and how savings pays off is really important. The best way to do this is to help your child set up their own budget. Simply help your child create a written plan that separates giving, spending and savings, then most importantly, help them to stick to it.

Source: life.familyeducation.com, econ.org

 

The Art of Couponing

If you’ve ever watched one of the TV shows about extreme couponing you know that it is a lot of work. While few of us can dedicate the many hours it takes to replicate what those programs highlight, there are many avenues to find money saving coupons easily and quickly. Here are three ideas to get you started:

1)      Coupon Centric Websites – Sites like Retail Me Not, Coupon Mom and Smart Source have a plethora of coupons on a large range of consumer items. From groceries to electronics, your best bet is to do a quick check on one or all three of these sites. Many times you’ll find a coupon for what you’re looking for.

2)      In-store and Newspaper Ads – Yes, it’s old school but taking a quick scan of your grocery store’s flyer is a great way to find products to save on. The couple of minutes it takes to look through it can save you big over the long run. Many stores even have coupon racks at their entrance, so check those out too.

3)      Go to the Source – Many manufacturers now offer coupons directly on their own website. Often times you can even have them delivered directly to your email inbox. So if you frequently purchase the same brands, take a few minutes to search their website before you buy next time. You may find coupons or, at times, even free offers as well.

The key is to spend a little time up front to save in the end. Saving two or three dollars each time you shop will add up quickly at the end of the year.

Source: smartmoney.com

 

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