Debt Consolidation: Not A Silver Bullet, But Still A Good Idea

cartoon of a person buried under a pile of billsUsing a personal loan to refinance your existing debt can make your debt more manageable. You’ll have one monthly payment at one interest rate instead of many smaller bills due on different days of the month.

Will personal loans work for you?

1.) Have I fixed the debt problem?
Think about why you’re in debt. If a medical bill, job loss or some other temporary hardship describes your situation, the fact that you have a job or have paid the medical bill means you’ve solved the problem that caused the debt in the first place.

If, on the other hand, you accumulated debt by overspending on credit cards, a debt consolidation loan may not be the answer just yet. First make a budget you can stick to, learn how to save and gain responsibility in your use of credit. Getting a debt consolidation loan without doing those things first is a temporary solution that can make matters worse.

2.) Can I commit to a repayment plan?
If you’re struggling to make minimum monthly payments on bills, a debt consolidation loan can only do so much. It’s possible that the lower interest rate will make repayment easier, but bundling all of that debt together could result in a higher monthly payment over a shorter period of time. Before you speak to a loan officer, figure out how much you can afford to put toward getting out of debt. Your loan officer can work backward from there to figure out terms, interest rate and total amount borrowed.

If you’re relying on a fluctuating stream of income to repay debt, it may be difficult to commit to a strict repayment plan that’s as aggressive as you like. You can still make extra principal payments on a personal loan, so your strategy of making intermittent payments will still help. You just can’t figure them into your monthly payment calculation.

3.) Is my interest rate the problem?
For some people, the biggest chunk of their debt is a student loan. These loans receive fairly generous terms, since a college degree should generally result in a higher-paying job. Debt consolidation for student loans, especially subsidized PLUS loans, may not make a great deal of sense. You’re better off negotiating the repayment structure with your lender if the monthly payments are unrealistic.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with credit card debt, interest rate is definitely part of the problem. Credit card debt interest regularly runs in the 20% range, more than twice the average rate of personal loans. Refinancing this debt with a personal loan can save you plenty over making minimum credit card payments.

4.) Will a personal loan cover all my debts?
The average American household has nearly $15,000 in credit card debt.

If you have more than $50,000 in credit card debt, it’s going to be difficult to put together a personal loan that can finance the entire amount. It’s worth prioritizing the highest interest cards and consolidating those instead of trying to divide your refinancing evenly between accounts. Get the biggest problems out of the way, so you can focus your efforts on picking up the pieces.

Debt consolidation doesn’t work for everyone, but it can do wonders for many people. The ability to eliminate high-interest debt and simplify monthly expenses into one payment for debt servicing can change a family’s whole financial picture. Gather your account statements and your paycheck stubs, and head to [CREDIT UNION] today!

Your Turn:
What’s your secret weapon in the battle against debt? Any tips and tricks that helped you get a handle on what you owe? Let us know!

Sources:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/

http://lifehacker.com/5973715/should-i-get-a-debt-consolidation-loan-to-pay-off-my-credit-cards

https://www.credible.com/blog/what-are-average-student-loan-interest-rates/

https://www.debt.org/consolidation/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/debt-consolidation-loans/

http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/debt-consolidation-truth/

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From Summer Job To Just Plain Job: How To Turn Your Internship Into A Promising Career

cartoon of woman juggling three balss, labeled internship, job & careerSummer internships are a rite of passage for college students, but how can you turn yours into your dream job? Read on for the next steps you’ll need to transition it into an actual job.

Here’s the good news: You’re in the door, because most companies prefer hiring from within.

Unfortunately, it’s not automatic; the company won’t necessarily find a position for you. That said, it’s not impossible. It only takes a combination of accomplishment, luck and know-how to land your dream position.

If you’re struggling with converting your internship into a full-time position, remember these five pointers:

1.) Ask for a specific position
A common mistake made by job-seekers is asking the broad question, “Are you hiring?” The answer may be yes, but it’s unlikely that anyone knows about every open position. An advantage of being an intern is learning about potential openings.

Keep an ear out for new projects, teams or promotions, as these will likely have new positions. Your immediate supervisor may not be able to hire you, but he can connect you with someone who can and recommend you for a position.

2.) Time your ask
Don’t ask about future employment on the last day of your internship; it makes you look like a procrastinator.

Ideally, ask after a big win. When you’ve just completed a major project, you’ve got the limelight. It doesn’t have to be a vital-to-the-life-of-the-company project, but should be a significant success showcasing your skills.

When referencing this accomplishment, use a humble-brag. Ask your immediate supervisor if the task was done to their satisfaction. Getting them to sing your praises makes them more likely to recommend you for another position.

3.) Be everywhere
Part of the benefit of an internship is the chance to see the inner workings of a company. You can learn about different aspects of the business – but not through keeping your head down. Instead, take every opportunity to visit and work with other departments and people. The more people who know your name, the more likely it is you’ll get to stay.

4.) Become indispensable
Lack of experience can be an asset in your internship as it provides you with tremendous flexibility in how you tackle tasks. Find a piece of technology or a set of procedures you can master, either through training or observing others. Your objective is to become an expert in something the company needs. It can even be running the copier – anything goes, if it gets you in the door.

5.) Be professional
The best attribute to display in your internship is follow-through. Be on time to work and take on every task with enthusiasm and dedication. Demonstrate to your employer that you’re someone they’d want to hire.

The summer internship can be a great start to a great career – if you want it to be. With a lot of work and a little luck, it can be the first in a series of career successes.

Sources:

https://www.themuse.com/advice/from-intern-to-colleague-3-secrets-for-landing-a-fulltime-gig

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/05/20/turn-your-internship-into-a-full-time-job/#1d0f3bf5483c

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/college-summer-internships-dream-job-networking-165310981.html

Beware Tech Support Scams!

Reflection of man over program code pressing "access granted" buttonYou’re always putting yourself out on a limb when you call tech support. You dial the number the company gives you, and perhaps after a while of waiting, you’re connected to someone who may be working on the other side of the world in a completely different time zone. Then you’re asked to give this anonymous person identifying details about your phone or computer and the technical problems you’re experiencing.

Of course, you’re fairly certain the speaker works for your device’s company and you believe it’s perfectly safe to share this information. At the very least, they have contracted with this individual and are tracking their service.

All of that gets a little riskier when you’re asked to allow the tech support agent to have remote access to your device. This step is sometimes necessary to fix the glitch, but it can also be unnerving. Suddenly, it’s as if an invisible person has taken over your screen. Letters you haven’t typed are showing up on the display and the cursor is flying all over the screen, even though you haven’t touched the mouse.

You’re essentially letting someone have free access to a device that houses some of your most personal information. Yikes!

And that’s exactly what tech support scammers are looking for with their nefarious hacks. It’s truly as awful as it sounds: In these scams, fraudsters contact victims and trick them into granting the scammer access to their computers. The crooks may reach out to people through a phone call, insisting the victims have a virus or another problem they’ve somehow detected from the company’s headquarters. Alternatively, they’ll send a popup to the victim’s computer which will flash dire warnings about an impending or existing virus that can be “fixed” by clicking on a link.

There are several outcomes of such tech support scams, none of them good. Sometimes, a scammer will trick you into installing malware on your computer, claiming you have to click on a link in order to heal your computer of its ills. Other times, they might sell you expensive “software” by making the same false claims. Still other times, they’ll direct you to a bogus tech support website where you’ll be asked to input your credit card information. And they’ll oftentimes simply help themselves to the sensitive data they find on your computer and then wreak havoc on your financial life.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Scams
Tech support scams are nothing new, but a recent wave of these scams has taken on an ironic twist. The very organization that leads the battle in taking down scammers is being exploited for a particularly heinous hack.

Scammers posing as FTC employees are calling victims, asking for remote access to their computers. They assure victims they can help restore any affected devices to their previous working conditions. Many of them are claiming to represent the FTC’s Advanced Tech Support Refund program.

This program was created to help victims of previous scams collect their refund money from the FTC. The scammers will convince the victims that they are moments away from seeing their money – they just need to provide the alleged FTC employee with remote access to their computer. They may also ask for an upfront payment before the refund can be issued or for checking account information, claiming it’s necessary for the refund to clear.

Of course, none of this is true and the caller has never worked for the FTC. In fact, the FTC will never request remote access to your device or ask you to pay to receive a refund. Also, their refunds are sent in check form via snail mail, and do not require any checking account information at all.

The FTC has alerted the public that the only genuine number to call for information about the Advanced Tech Support Refund program is 877-793-0908. If someone calls you on their own, assume it’s a scam. End the call immediately and report the incident to the FTC.

Recognizing Tech Support Scams
As mentioned, the wave of tech support scams in which fraudsters impersonate the FTC are easy to spot if you know this basic information about the FTC: They will never request remote access to your computer, ask for payment in exchange for a refund, or reach out to you on the phone.

Here’s how to prevent other variations of tech support scams:

  • Never click on a pop-up box that claims your computer has a virus and offers to clean it. This will only infect your computer or grant a scammer remote access to your device.
  • Always call tech support on your own; if they call you, especially if you’re not aware of any problem with your computer, hang up as quickly as you can.
    Never agree to purchase expensive software online to fix an alleged virus.
  • If you think you’ve been scammed, tell everyone you know about it and be sure to alert the FTC. Let’s do our part to put those crooks out of business for good!

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a tech support scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/03/ftc-begin-mailing-checks-victims-tech-support-scam

https://www.idtheftcenter.org/Current-Scam-Alerts/ftc-tech-support-scam.html

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/04/ftc-asking-access-your-computer-its-scam

Rising Interest Rates

Report showing rising interest rate dataInterest rates have been steadily increasing over the last year. So, if you’re thinking of taking out a large loan in the near future, you might be waiting until those rates start going down again.

Here’s why that might not be the best idea.

Interest rates will continue to rise
Experts predict interest rates on financial products will continue increasing throughout the year. It’s not looking great for those who are taking out a short-term loan, either. Experts claim 2018 will see three interest rate hikes, each being 0.25%. If you need to borrow money, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later.

The inflation factor
Unemployment rates are down, but wage growth continues to crawl at an almost nonexistent pace. This, in turn, leads to limited price growth, which keeps the inflation rate stagnant. However, the feds are expecting wage growth to finally kick off in 2018, setting into motion an uptick in inflation and price growth.

The government wants to stay ahead of any surge in inflation. They do so by increasing their interest rates even before there is clear evidence of an inflation peak.

Financial institutions and credit card companies pattern their own interest rates after the government’s rate. Therefore, it’s best to work on aggressively paying down outstanding debt you have before you’re hit with increased interest rates.

Government deficits
Long-term interest rates have been rising since December. This is largely due to the growing government deficit that’s linked to recent tax cuts. The pending two-year budget plan will put the government even deeper into the red, likely causing those rates to climb even higher.

Mortgages
Mortgage interest rates are now at an all-time high; they are currently close to 4.6% and are up more than .20% from a year ago.

For the most part, mortgage rates are linked to bond yields. When bond yields rise, so do mortgage rates. The recent tax overhaul caused investors to favor stocks over bonds, and consequently, mortgage rates have been climbing since September.

Some experts are predicting a turnaround for mortgages in 2018, with the rates possibly dipping below 4% sometime this year. However, all agree that by year’s end, the mortgage rate will settle at 4.5%.

No one can be certain of anything, though, and waiting until the rates drop might prove to be pointless. In fact, you might even end up paying a higher rate for that delay.

The good news
Experts predict a great year for returns on savings, especially CDs. Some claim an average one-year CD will yield a 0.7% return by the end of 2018. So, if you’ve been thinking about opening a share certificate or other savings options, talk with [credit union] to get started.

Volatile economy got you stressed? Call, click or stop by the credit union. We’ll guide you through any financial turn!

Your Turn:
What steps are you taking in the current financial climate? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/interest-rates-forecast.aspx/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/amp/

Mobile Banking – 4 Ways To Stay On Top Of Your Finances While On The Go

Closeup of person's thumb over mobile banking app displayed on mobile deviceMost people have a checklist they go through before they leave the house. Is the stove turned off? Are the doors locked? Do I have my wallet, my keys and my cellphone? The only thing that has changed about that process in the last few years has been the addition of that last item on the list.

Today, 92% of Americans have cellphones and 68% of them have smartphones. This is a remarkable change from just a few years ago. More than half of the people you see every day are carrying a computer that dwarfs the most powerful computing technology that was available a decade ago. It’s also connected to all of the world’s information, literally at our fingertips. What do we use it for? Drawing mustaches on our selfies and tossing wingless birds at shoddily made pig housing.

If you’d like to use your smartphone for more sophisticated purposes, plus add a ton of convenience and peace of mind to your life, consider mobile banking. With a couple of taps, you can access a whole suite of financial information. Let’s look at four scenarios where mobile banking can save you some time … and even some money.

1.) Say goodbye to security woes
Despite all of the data breaches that have been in the public eye over the past few years, no one has figured out how to compromise mobile devices as a platform. Security leaks have affected PCs, Macs and point of sale terminals, but no widespread security vulnerability has compromised mobile banking. Despite the fear, mobile banking is actually a fundamentally secure platform.

The first reason for this is the plurality of platforms. You and your neighbor may not be able to share cellphone chargers, much less apps or other experiences. This diversity makes it difficult for a single vulnerability to affect many users. Since there’s less possibility of large scale attacks, hackers have very little incentive to dedicate time toward trying to compromise mobile platforms.

The second reason for this is the tight control placed on mobile devices. Because these devices have to send regular usage information back to your mobile provider, they tend to be far less prone to modification. There’s just not as much you can do to an iPhone or an Android as you can to a PC. While some users might override those protections, such modifications are not widespread enough to justify attempted infiltration.

Mobile banking is secure and safe. Data transmitted from your cellphone to your provider is heavily encrypted. If you lose your phone, it can be remotely deactivated and passwords usually aren’t stored on the device.

2.) You can check your balance any time
Rather than waiting for your statement every month or booting up that slow PC for checking your account balances online, you can view transactions while waiting for a bus or in line at a restaurant. You can stay vigilant against illegal account access any time you’ve got your phone and a spare few seconds.

The convenience of mobile banking can also keep you from making costly mistakes. If you know funds may be running tight, check your account balance while in the checkout line to make sure you can cover the cost of your purchases. You can see if your monthly rent check has been withdrawn from your account to avoid the costly fees associated with overdrafting. It’s easier than ever to keep track of your finances.

You can also help to prevent errors with mobile banking. Accidental overpayment, duplicate payments and other errors are a regrettable reality of the modern high-speed economy. By regularly checking your account statement, you can catch these pesky problems before they turn into big issues.

3.) It’s where you’ll find the next big thing
Mobile payments and mobile check depositing are becoming more widely available and are already being used in many places. As technology gets better, these functions will become cheaper, faster and even more widespread. Getting involved in mobile banking on the ground floor will help you stay up to speed with this rapidly evolving world.

Imagine getting turn-by-turn walking directions to your nearest ATM. You could get alerts when new houses are listed for sale along your daily commute. You might pay for your breakfast by signing a receipt on your phone. These and other changes are coming and they are only the beginning. If mobile banking doesn’t do something you need, wait six months. Someone will probably find an app for that.

4.) 24-hour-a-day instant access
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because you can’t remember if you paid your electric bill? Ever have a tiny freakout on the bus because you suspect someone may have accessed your account? Are money worries preventing you from enjoying your vacation? If you have these concerns and are nowhere near your computer, you could just suffer through them.

As an alternative, though, you could use a mobile app to check your balance and transaction history. See if your monthly bills have cleared. Make sure your balance is safe. You can do all of this any time you’ve got your phone, day or night.

Mobile banking won’t replace traditional, face-to-face interaction. There will always be a place in the credit union service standards for the human interaction. What mobile banking apps offer is a wonderful supplement to those high-quality services. Space-age convenience, top-level security, and blissful peace of mind are all available from your pocket, anywhere in the world.

Sources:

http://mauconline.net/2013/03/07/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-mobile-banking/

http://marketingland.com/pew-61-percent-in-us-now-have-smartphones-46966

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/5-reasons-to-use-mobile-banking-1.aspx

Five Things That Will Help Your Future

Group of multi-gender, multi-ethnic students studying together.Your primary reason for attending college is to jump start your career, of course. But, did you know there are many other things you can do now to help secure your future?

Here are just 5 things you can do today that will improve your after-college life:

1. Be careful with your internet presence
You aren’t thinking about terms like “personal brand” just yet, but you’ll be applying for that first after-college job in just a few short years. In our digital age, employers tend to check out prospective employees’ internet presences to get a feel for what kind of person they might be hiring. Be careful to cultivate the online image you’d be comfortable sharing with your future boss.

2. Master the art of negotiating
Whether you’re a skilled debater or love to keep a low profile, you need to learn how to negotiate to earn your true worth. And you’ll need to know how to do that as soon as you’re applying for your very first real job.

Master the art of negotiating now by practicing on your friends whenever you disagree on something. You can find lots of tips and techniques online; research and then try them. See what works and what will never fly. By the time you graduate, you’ll be equipped to politely and firmly negotiate for a better salary, an improved benefits package and more!

3. Stick to a budget
Sure, you’ve got a mountain of student debt to pay off, but that doesn’t mean you should let your budget go to pot. Learn how to stick to a spending plan now, while life is still relatively cheap. Better yet, see if you can cut down on your monthly spending and start paying back your student loan before you’ve graduated!

If you need help managing your money, be sure to call, click, or stop by [credit union] today for free financial advice.

4. Sign up for a class that’s not related to your major
Take the time to explore educational pursuits that are not directly related to your chosen major. It’s always a good idea to broaden your knowledge base, and you never know which class or area of study can be super-handy at a later time. Consider subjects like finances, computer science and accounting, all of which will likely be useful to you one day.

5. Develop healthy habits
Now that you’re living on your own and responsible for your daily schedule, take the time and effort to establish healthy habits on every level. Find a healthful diet that you can stick to, adapt a responsible sleeping pattern and establish a study and work routine that shows maturity, perseverance and forethought. It might be more fun to let loose for another few years, but developing healthy habits now shows that you’re growing up and ready to join the world of adults.

Remember: The choices you make today will help to ensure your brighter tomorrow.

Your Turn:
How do you plan for your future today? Share your own best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/best-advice-college-students-never-hear-2017-5

https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/know-yourself/5-ways-to-find-career-ideas

How to Prepare for Your Job Interviews

Young black woman shaking hands with her new employerNothing beats the excitement and novelty of your very first real job. With your long-awaited degree in hand, the world is at your fingertips! You can do it all – and you will. But first, you need to land that perfect job. For that to happen, you’ll need to get through an interview looking poised, polished and professional.

Whether,you’re preparing for your first real job or you’re just looking for part-time work to make some headway on your student loans, we’ve got you covered. Check out our handy list of interview tips and get ready to make your best impression!

Research – Find out all you can about your prospective workplace. Showing that you’re familiar with the company, its goals and its successes will impress your interviewer and help you display a keen interest in the company.

Practice – Having an interviewer’s question leaving you tongue-tied is the stuff that interview nightmares are made of. Role-play with a friend before the meeting, having them ask you typical interview questions, like “What can you bring to the company?” and “Can you list some of your strongest skills?”

This way, you’ll be prepared for the questions the interviewer will throw at you during the real thing.

Be professional – Dress to impress. You want to look respectable and mature, so look the part. You don’t need to wear a suit unless the particular workplace calls for one, but you can look sharp and professional in a buttoned, collared shirt, or a nicer blouse and slacks.

Also, be sure to show up at least 10 minutes early. Prepare everything you’ll need the night before so you’re not frantically searching for your keys a half-hour before you’re supposed to meet with the big boss. Make sure you know how to drive to the office without getting lost. If it’s in an unfamiliar part of town, input the address into Waze or another GPS app the day before the interview and do a practice run to be sure you’ve got it down pat.

Finally, use respectable language only, keeping away from slang, vague, meaningless words like “um” or “whatever,” and, of course, all swear words.

Act confident – This is where your latent acting skills come into play. You may be quaking at the knees, but you’ll need to present yourself as a confident, assured employee. Your handshake should be firm. Look the interviewer in the eye. Answer questions in a strong, certain voice. Employers want to see strength and poise; show them you’ve got it!

Exit with grace – No matter how the interview played out, be sure to leave a good lasting impression. Smile, thank the interviewer for their time, and mention what a pleasure it was to meet them.

Follow-up – Later that day, send the interviewer a quick email thanking them again for their time, being sure to sign your name. This way, they’ll remember you from among the dozens of potential employees they may have met that day.

Now get out there and land that dream job!

Your Turn:
How do you prepare for job interviews? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/search?q=preparing+for+first+interview&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=preparing+for+first+interview&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.7064j0j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/first-job-interview-questions-answers

https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/interview/practice