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woman saving money for holidaysAre you financially ready for the holidays? If you’re like many people, the holiday season has crept up much too fast and you’re not quite ready for the expenses involved with visiting family, preparing holiday foods and shopping for gifts. Unfortunately, these extra expenses can lead to overspending, credit card debt and serious financial issues.

To avoid this trap and make your holiday dreams come true, here are some tips:

  1. Get started early.
Oftentimes, stores offer good deals before the official holiday shopping season starts, which is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving. Prices tend to be lower and you have more time to price shop and take advantage of online or mail order bargains. Using a store’s lay away program is also a great way to help you buy items with no interest. Starting early takes some planning but saves a lot of money.

  1. Make a budget now and stick with it.
After you've decided for whom you want to buy gifts, make an overall budget and decide how much you want -- and can afford -- to spend on each person. This will help you avoid the temptations of last-minute impulse buying. This takes discipline. It may be helpful to take someone with when you go shopping to provide a voice of reason and help you not overspend.

  1. Avoid paying interest on credit cards.
The best possible strategy to pay for holiday shopping is to pay by cash, check or debit card. This will help you avoid paying extra for credit card finance charges. If you end up having to use your credit card to pay for holiday expenses, make every effort to pay off the bill quickly to avoid interest charges. If you can't do that, pay as much of the bill as you can each month.

  1. Pare down your gift list.
A good way to manage your holiday spending is to give gifts to fewer people. Let your family and friends know in advance that you are reducing your gift exchange list. It takes some planning but if you are up-front about your reduced holiday gifting, most people will understand.

  1. Get creative.
For example, you can give a coupon for your services (such as babysitting, yard maintenance, or whatever your skills include). You can also make thoughtful hand-made gifts or home-made treats.

  1. Take advantage of credit or debit card rewards.
Many financial institutions offer rewards for using credit or debit cards, and the holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of them. At Select FCU, we offer the uChoose program, that allows you to earn points for shopping with your rewards account. You can then redeem the points for gifts and gift cards. To learn more about this innovative way to shop and save money, go to: www.uchooserewards.com

  1. Open a holiday savings account.
If you open a holiday savings account early in the year, you can have a nice amount of dollars saved by the time the holiday season comes around. Select FCU offers special high-interest accounts for these types of occasional expenses.  

  1. Use a Skip-a-Payment coupon.

This special program offered by Select FCU allows loan account holders to skip a loan payment for certain types of loans to use that money for holiday expenses.

We hope these holiday savings tips are helpful and that your holiday season is joyful. If you have questions about the programs listed above or need some financial counseling, we offer free services. Just give us a call at (210) 223-6561 for more information.

 

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couple retirement planning w cprt baranqIf you’re young and just getting started with your career, then planning for retirement will seem like the last thing to be concerned about on your list of things to do.  Or, if you’re older and behind the curve on saving for retirement, you may wonder if it’s worth it to start some strategies so late.

Regardless of how old you are, planning and saving for retirement is critical to start now if you expect to enjoy a comfortable retirement. It’s important to start saving for retirement early because as a young person entering the workforce you have the advantage of time ahead of you. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the more time you will have to accumulate retirement wealth. If you’re older and haven’t started planning and saving, it’s not too late to start and make the best of the time you have left. 

How to Prepare for Retirement

The easiest way to get started is to enroll in your employer’s 401k plan. A 401k is a qualified retirement plan that allows eligible employees of a company to save and invest for their own retirement on a tax-deferred basis. These contributions are deducted from your salary on a pre-tax basis.

Another approach to save for retirement is to start an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This type of savings account is designed to help you save for retirement and offers many tax advantages. There are two different types of IRAs: Traditional and Roth IRAs. Check with your employer or financial advisor to learn more about these retirement-saving options.

Something else to consider is investing in property or businesses that can provide residual income after you retire. Just start out by investing in something small and then build up to owning larger assets that can provide a significant retirement income stream from rental payments or the sale of the property or business.

How Much Do I Need to Save for Retirement?

As with so many things in life, how much you need to save for retirement depends on your individual circumstances. Below are four key factors to help you answer this question:

 

Your Lifestyle: How much is enough? Well, it depends!

As a rule, the larger the lifestyle you want to have in retirement, the more you will need to save. You may be able achieve a comfortable retirement by consistently saving each month if you start young and retire later.

To get an idea of how much you’ll need, you can assume you’ll need at least $100,000 for every $5,000 a year of retirement income that needs to come from savings. That means if you want $50,000 of income per year (in addition to whatever you may get from Social Security and/or pensions), you’ll need at least $1,000,000 saved.

Saving a million dollars seems like a huge goal to reach. You may get overwhelmed with the idea of trying to become a millionaire and decide not to save at all. Don't let this happen to you. Work toward making small manageable adjustments that help you save more. Every bit counts. And remember, many people find reasonable ways to live on less during retirement. If you have Social Security and a pension, you may not need anything close to a million.

 

Your Current Age: How much time do you have?

The more time you have before your projected retirement age, the less you’ll need to save each month to reach your goals. If you have less time, you’ll need to save more.

If you have more time, an option to consider is allocation of a larger portion of your investments to higher risk options that have the potential (but not the certainty) of earning higher returns.

If you have less time, such as being within five to 10 years of retirement, you'll need to focus on safer investments. That way, if a large downturn in the market occurs, it won’t derail your retirement plans.

If you want to retire early, you'll need to consider the effects of having more years in retirement. Additionally, you will have to consider the out-of-pocket health care costs you will encounter up until you reach age 65 (which is when Medicare begins).

Even after Medicare starts, you'll still have insurance premiums, co-pays and a potential need for supplemental insurance. Often times, folks who are used to having their health insurance subsidized by their employer are surprised at the costs they will need to build into their budget after they retire.

If you are a late starter on saving for retirement, you may need to consider making some big changes. Think about downsizing your lifestyle (smaller home and car, less travel and shopping) so you can save more. Or, you can plan on working longer.

 

Projected Retirement Age: When to Retire?

There’s a large amount of consideration that goes into the decision as to when to retire. If you have a particular age in mind, start your retirement planning as soon as possible. There is evidence that those who start planning at least five years away from retirement are far happier and have a smoother transition into retirement.


Another consideration: People are living longer. With improved health care, if you retire at 62 you might be spending 25—35 years in retirement. That will require a substantial nest egg. If you’re behind in building your nest egg, then consider working longer.

In most cases, it may be better to keep working longer, at least until age 70. By working until 70, you can delay the start of your Social Security benefits and get a larger amount of guaranteed income from Social Security at age 70.

 

Existing Savings: Do you have a good start?

If you already have a good amount saved in your 401(k) or IRA, or perhaps you inherited a large amount of money, you may have a good head start on saving for retirement already.

If you have a home or business, be prudent about how much of that asset you count as being available for retirement. For example, if you plan on downsizing your home, think about what is realistic. If you have no mortgage and plan to sell your house for $500,000, you will still need a place to live. If you decide to purchase a retirement patio home for $350,000, then you will only be able to consider $150,000 of your current home value as retirement savings.

For those with existing savings, the four factors outlined above can be useful to help you determine how much you will approximately need to meet your desired retirement goals.

If you’re just starting to save for retirement, then you want to save as much as possible. You can be creative and consider some non-traditional approaches to retirement savings such a renting out a room in your home, living the RV lifestyle or retiring overseas.



To summarize, the keys to building your retirement savings is to start early as possible, be consistent in your retirement savings contributions and thoughtfully do some planning around the four factors described above. 

 

 

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Courtesy of Select FCU, a San Antonio credit union



romance scam money heart w cprt strahktskswIn today’s digital age, we live in an environment of convenience. From the comfort of our home, we use computers and smart phones to shop, bank, pay bills, do business and get an education. We also can find new friends and build relationships. Unfortunately, this ability has opened a door to financial crime (or fraud) that takes advantage of people’s need for companionship. These "romance scams" are becoming more common and can be devasting both emotionally and financially.  

Here’s how romance scams work. The criminals that run these frauds use social media networks or online dating sites to make contact with their targets, who are often lonely people seeking companionship. After making a connection with the victim, the fraudster attempts to form a meaningful relationship over many months to build trust. Many times the victim actually falls in love with the fraudster. Next, the  fraudster asks the victim to send them money to help with a business opportunity, medical expense or travel. Initially, the amount of money requested is small but over time the amounts increase until the victim experiences serious financial impact and emotional devastation. 

It may be hard to believe this could happen but the Internet makes it easy for a scammer to hide behind a fraudulent identity. The scammer can be anywhere in the world and still be able to target their victims with fake names, photographs and social accounts. They also tend to target people who are emotionally vulnerable. Most of the victims of romance scams tend to be women over the age of 50 although men can also fall prey. The criminals often target widows, retirees, divorcees or single women.

While it seems like an unusual occurrence, it’s actually a big problem. In 2016, the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center reported close to 15,000 complaints classified as romance scams. These scams have resulted in a loss of more than $230 million. In reality, the problem may even be bigger. Some reports indicate that only 15 percent of fraud victims report the scam to law enforcement – possibly due to embarrassment. The statistics also show that Texas ranks in the top states that have the highest victim count for romance fraud. The other states in the top five are California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

The good news is that investigators in the financial world are watching out for certain types of activities that can be indicators of romance scams. The activities they look for include:

  1. A large fund transfer not typical for the customer.
  2. Funds transfers to international locations.
  3. Large ATM withdrawals.
  4. Large purchases at locations that process funds transfers (big box stores, international wire processors).
  5. Customer using lines of credit or pulling from investments, which is out of character.

So how can you avoid falling prey to such a scam? The first step as a consumer is to become knowledgeable of the “tricks” used by scammers. To learn more about romance scams, visit the web sites below:

http://www.romancescams.org

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/romance-scams

http://www.rd.com/culture/online-dating-scam/

Next, be leery of any new people who reach out to have a relationship with you online. This could come in the form of a Facebook friend request from a very trustworthy looking person. Also, be careful with online dating services.

Finally, if someone starts requesting money or you think you are a target of a romance scam, don’t hesitate to call law enforcement officials as well as your bank/financial institution. 


The staff at Select Federal Credit Union are on the watch for scams and would be happy to help you with any concerns. To receive assistance, call Select FCU at (210) 223-6561.

 

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Information and Tips from the San Antonio Credit Union Select FCU

BALLROOM LUMINOSO - under bridge public art in San AntonioIf you’re serious about staying on a budget, sometimes that means cutting entertainment costs. While you might seem ok with this at first, trying to go for very long time without having some fun can take its toll and you may quickly be tempted to break the budget. To prevent this, make sure you allot a small amount to splurge if possible and then come up with a plan to have some very low-cost fun before you become discouraged. The good news is that with a little creativity and research, you can find many fun, free things to do in San Antonio and specifically East Side San Antonio. Here is a list to get you started.

Tour Public Art Displays – San Antonio is full of beautiful and historic art displays that are free to observe. To plan your trip, visit the Get Creative San Antonio website to see a list of art displays, get the addresses to plug into Google Maps and plan your expedition. 

Catch a Free Movie in the Summer - Several of the local movie theaters and museums offer free or $1 movies during the summer at non-peak times. To see a full list, visit the San Antonio Mom Blogs website.

Go Biking or Walking on Hays Street Bridge – This restored historic bridge is a relaxing spot to enjoy biking, walking or just hanging with friends or family to take pictures. To get the Google map directions, visit their Facebook page

Take a Gardening Class – Gardening can be a relaxing and fun activity for families or friends to do together. On top of that, it can provide low-cost, fresh, delicious produce to save you even more money. If you’re not sure how to do it properly or have children and want to teach them about gardening, check out the free educational programs at our local non-profit organization Gardopia. To find out more, check out their website

Attend a Free Youth Performance at the Carver Community Cultural Center – This East Side cultural center that focuses on African American art offers a variety of performances and exhibitions, some for a fee but the youth matinee performances are free. To learn more, check out their website

Participate in Free Library Events – If you think the library is just for holding books, you’re in for a real surprise. The San Antonio Public Library branches offer many wonderful programs for people of all ages including story time for little ones, tween/teen times and an adults-only coloring class. To see the event schedule at the nearby McCreless Library just south of the East Side, check out this listing on their website

Attend a Free Workshop at Home Depot – Interested in a “Do-It-Yourself” home project to save money or just want to learn how to do something new, Home Depot offers free workshops on a variety of topics for adults and children including installing a ceiling fan, building a table out of a crate and building a toy truck as a craft with your child, grandchild or one you are mentoring.

Visit the Local Pet Store – The San Antonio Zoo is awesome but if it’s not in your budget right now, a visit to see the pets at the local pet shop or the city pound can be a fun activity. Just be careful that the furry, scaly creatures don’t capture your heart and make you buy them unless your budget can handle feeding them! The Royal Pet Palace is a great place right in the East Side San Antonio. 

Sign Up for a Free Physical Fitness Program – If you are trying to entertain kids, the East Side Promise organization offers a variety of physical fitness programs and camps. To learn more, click here.

Go Bird Watching – Just 15 minutes south of downtown San Antonio, there is gem that many people are unaware of. At Mitchell Lake, you can enjoy nature, look for birds and attend workshops about native plants for your garden or porch. While it’s not completely free, it’s very low cost at $5 for adults, $2 for children 6 to 16 years gold and no charge for children under 5 years old. To read more about what they offer, click here.

We hope you find this list helpful for enjoying life while sticking to your budget. If you need assistance with setting up a budget or would like financial advice, we welcome you to give us a call at (210) 223-6561 to set up a free meeting with a professional from the Financial Empowerment Group.


 

 

 

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Money-saving tips from Select Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, Texas.


save for vacation at a San Antonio credit unionThe kids are out of school and if you’re parents of a typical family, you start thinking of the annual summer family get away. In an ideal world, we all would have fully funded vacation accounts by now but the reality is that most us have not set aside funds for that summer vacation for one reason or the other. If you’re in that boat, here are some tips to help you pay for a summer trip in a few months.  

1. Begin with an expense plan.

Make a decision how much you’ll spend on your vacation. Try to be as specific as you can. Things to consider: plane tickets, or if you’re driving, gas expenses, lodging costs, meals, souvenirs and park or museums fees. Add them up. If the total sends you into panic mode, then adjust your budget until you reach a level of spending that you feel comfortable with. If your funds are tight, then consider taking one or two long weekend trips instead of that big vacation you were dreaming about. 

2. Put off an expense now for fun later.

Look for expenses that you can eliminate now. For example, you could cancel a health club membership or subscription service you are not using or do without cable or satellite TV. If you still have a home phone land line, you could cancel that. By dropping these seldom used services, you can save money now to apply for a family vacation later.

3. Cut eating out and save big.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the typical family with kids will spend an average of $239 each month on eating out. That’s money that can easily be saved for your big trip.

If you don’t want to go totally cold turkey on eliminating eating out, then check local eateries for coupons or “kids eat free” dinners that are often offered on Monday or Tuesday nights. Watch newspaper coupon inserts for buy-one-entree, get-one-free dining deals.

If cooking at home is not possible, frozen dinners or ready-made items at the grocery store can sometimes be less expensive than a restaurant. 

When it comes time for your vacation, consider packing a cooler or picnic basket for your travels stops. While this involves a little work on the trip, it allows you to get away with a much smaller budget. 

4. Have a garage sale or sell things online.

Selling things you don’t need or use can be a great way to raise funds for a vacation very quickly. In today’s day and age, you have the choice of either having a garage sale or selling things on websites like Ebay or Craig’s List. 

To promote your garage sale, run an ad in your local newspaper and post easy-to-read signs around your neighborhood. Always check your local regulations about where you can legally post notices. Keep in mind that kids’ clothes tend to sell better than adult clothes.

For online shopping, be sure to meet people in public places to show them items for sale for safety purposes. 

5. Use your tax refund.

If you receive a tax refund from the IRS, then sock it away in a dedicated savings account that offers a higher interest rate for reduced withdrawal privileges. Select FCU has a special savings account that is designed for these types of occasions. 

6. Use credit cards that pay you back.

In the months leading up to your vacation, try using a credit card that accumulates “rewards” (points or cash rebates) for everything you can: gas, groceries, etc.  

Allow rewards to accumulate, then use them to purchase a plane ticket, hotel room, rental car or gift card for chain restaurants that you’ll visit on your trip. You can locate and compare rewards cards at Bankrate.com. The key is to pay off your balance in full every month. Having vacation debt is not the kind of souvenir or memory you want to collect. 

If you need additional tips, please feel free to reach out to us at Select FCU. We can be reached at (210) 223-6561.

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How to build you credit score in San AntonioWhether you’re struggling with poor or bad credit and can’t a get a loan or just want to get a better interest rate, taking the time to understand the credit scoring system and clean up your credit can really pay off.  

Cleaning up bad credit or building your credit may seem like daunting task but it can be done. A good starting point is to find out what your credit report looks like now. If you haven’t done so, start by getting a free credit report from Annual Credit Report.com.

All consumers are entitled to one credit report annually from each major credit bureau: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. By staggering your orders so that you get a free report every few months from one reporting agency, you’ll be able to review how your reports change over time.

You also need to understand how your credit score is affected. In general, your credit score is determined by:

·         Whether or not you pay all of your bills on time.

·         How often you pay your bills on time as opposed to how often you pay them late.

·         How long you have had a credit history.

·         How much your credit card limits are.

·         How long it has been since you last applied for credit.

·         What types of credit you have, such as credit cards or mortgages.


Once you know your credit score, then follow the strategies below to get on the path of cleaning up your bad credit or improving your credit score.

1. Remove Errors on Your Credit Report

Once you have your reports, review them to verify that all of your personal information is accurate, such as your address and employer information. Also, review the reports regularly to make sure that your payments have been correctly reported. Be sure to compare the three reports, because a creditor might report to one bureau and skip the other two.

In the event that you discover any errors or find traces of identity fraud, you should contact the credit reporting company to take appropriate steps to correct any errors. This can help clean up your credit.


2. Obtain a Secured Credit Card

One way to rebuild a good track record with credit is to sign up for a credit card that is secured by your own cash deposit. For example, if you make a deposit of $700 with the bank who issues the credit card, then they would give you a card with a limit of $700. By using the card and making payments on it, you can show a steady payment history. To obtain a secured credit card, you will need to work with your bank or credit union. These cards can also be obtained directly from a credit card provider.


3. Take on a Reasonable Amount of Debt

Another way to build good credit is to assume a small amount of debt. For example, you may be able to sign up for a department store card or some type of installment loan. In addition to helping you establish good credit, this strategy can also help you develop your credit history.


4. Build Up Your Savings

Consider opening an emergency savings account at a bank or credit union. Having an emergency fund in a savings account can help with problems that lead to too much credit use. For instance, $1,000 in savings could pay off a medical bill and wouldn’t cost the additional15 percent interest the way a credit card would.


5. Repay Your Creditors

The most important strategy for cleaning up bad credit is simply to repay your creditors. If you get behind on payments, it is helpful to call your creditors and ask for help. They may be able to set up a payment schedule that fits your current budget. It’s critically important that you make your payments on time. Banks and credit unions pay particular attention to your “on-time” payment history. By paying on time, you are establishing that you’re responsible enough to take care of your debts.  If you can, try to pay more than the minimum. The less you pay, the longer you stay in debt.


6. Seek Credit Counseling

Establishing a budget can help you manage and repay your debts, but if you can’t stick to your budget, then you may want to consider credit counseling. Consider using the National Foundation for Credit Counseling: https://www.nfcc.org

Another option is to contact Select Federal Credit Union for guidance. 


7. Beware of Credit Repair Scams

While credit counseling can be useful, always be wary of credit repair scams. Never pay large fees upfront to a credit repair agency. Take the time to learn about your rights, what to look for when obtaining a consolidation loan in general and the specific terms of repair programs. Also, be sure to research and get references for those who offer to help.


While there are many strategies and programs to help you repair and build your credit, ultimately, you are the only one who can take charge and make it happen. If you take the steps we have listed above and diligently follow the recommended practices, you’ll make steady progress and clean up your credit over time.


To obtain a trustworthy consolidation loan or secured credit card in the San Antonio area, contact Select Federal Credit Union at (210) 223-6561. To obtain free financial counseling, contact the Financial Empowerment Center at (210) 431-4425.

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Select Federal Credit Union
1914 N Interstate 35
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