Set A Financial Goal. Win Money To Achieve It.

That’s right, this year we want toSnapshotPromo help you make your financial New Year’s resolution happen. Whether you want to sock away cash for a new car, or pay down debt, use $napshot to do it and you could win as much as $1,000.

Consumers like you, that use online financial management tools like $napshot, report saving an average of $100 monthly, just by setting and tracking financial goals. We want you to see how easy it is to gain more control of your money and reduce money-related stress. In fact, you’ll automatically be entered into a drawing to win cash prizes if you use $napshot to set a financial goal before February 28th, 2014. Click here to see the full promotion specifics on the AOFCU website.

To get started using $napshot today, log in to MyBranch and click on the eServices tab, then $napshot and then select “Goals” from the menu. $napshot is free to all AOFCU members. Try it out today!

A bigger ATM network is better

When you need convenient ATM accessATM without paying a surcharge, a bigger network is better.  AOFCU is pleased to belong to the CO-OP ATM network, the largest credit union-owned ATM network in the United States. The CO-OP ATM network operates nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the country for the benefit of credit union members.  How convenient is that?

Anyone who’s had to wander from place to place searching for an in-network ATM knows the value of more locations. CO-OP ATM network locations are found in credit union branches, supermarkets and 7-Eleven® stores, as well as a multitude of freestanding locations.  Simply put, they’re everywhere. And they are always surcharge-free for AOFCU members.

What’s even better than surcharge-free ATM access?  How about choice?  Suppose you’re standing in front of an ATM that doesn’t belong to the CO-OP ATM network and you really need the funds, regardless of surcharge. Your AOFCU ATM card also works at ATMs worldwide, because CO-OP Network has links to NYCE, STAR, Cirrus, Pulse and Plus.  You get the best of both worlds: the largest network of fee-free ATMs and expanded choices when fees are not an issue.

The CO-OP ATM network isn’t just bigger; it’s better.  It’s designed strictly for the benefit of its credit union members, no collecting fees in order to turn a profit and no making money at your expense. Because credit unions and the ATM network they support are owned by members, the dividends (convenience, free access) are yours.  It’s the largest surcharge-free credit union ATM network on the planet, and it belongs to you.

To find the surcharge-free CO-OP ATMs in your neighborhood, visit www.co-opnetwork.org.

Exercise Outdoors in a Winter Wonderland

When crisp fall weather turns to bitter winter cold, it’s tempting to huddle up inside with a cup of cocoa and wait for warmer days to return. But there’s no reason cold weather should stop your exercise routine, or even drive you  indoors. There’s plenty of frosty fun in outdoor winter exercise.

The folks at WebMD recommend you give winter sports a go. Cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowshoeing all offer cardiovascular and strength benefits, with a great calorie burn. They’re also suitable for any workout personality, whether you prefer to go it alone or exercise with buddies.

If you’re looking for something less adventuresome, you can also stick to your usual routines, such as walking, running and even cycling. And don’t discount the health benefits of snowball fights, sledding, shoveling snow and building snowmen. Anything that gets you moving helps your fitness.

The experts at the Mayo Clinic do advise that you take some simple precautions to avoid illness or injury when exercising in chilly weather, particularly when the temperatures dip to extremes. Before you head outside for a cold-weather workout, remember:

  • Dress in layers so you can strip off clothes as needed after you warm up — and pile them back on if you get cold.
  • Protect your hands, feet and ears from frostbite with warm layers. Your extremities are more susceptible to cold when you’re exercising, as most of your blood is pumping through your core.
  • Choose indoor exercise — or even skip the occasional workout — when the weather is at its worst. Winter exercise is more dangerous when it’s raining or snowing, when it’s below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and when wind chills are extremely low. If you do exercise in these conditions, take extra precautions to keep warm.
  • Wear appropriate winter-weather accessories, like footwear with traction for snowy conditions, reflective clothing for early-morning and late-night workouts, and a helmet for skiing or snowboarding.
  • Remember your sunscreen and sunglasses. Contrary to common belief, it’s easy to get too much sun in the winter, particularly if you’re outside in the snow or at high altitudes.
  • Plan your exercise route carefully so you wrap up with the wind at your back. This helps prevent the wind from chilling you, particularly if you’re sweaty.
  • Drink plenty of water, just like you would with summer exercise. You might not feel parched, but you’re still losing fluids through sweat.
  • Monitor yourself through your winter workouts to ensure you’re not showing signs of hypothermia or frostbite.

With these simple tips you can enjoy a safe, fun outdoor workout routine, whatever the weather.


Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Is an Electric Vehicle Right For You?

The short answer is that it entirely depends on your lifestyle and priorities. With cost savings and performance, and environmental benefits, electric vehicles offer an exciting alternative to gasoline-powered and hybrid vehicles. Still, consumers should consider certain factors before making a purchase, as driving habits, living situation and the ability to pay upfront costs all affect whether an electric car is a convenient or budget-friendly purchase.

Driving Habits
Electric vehicles (EV) are best for drivers with commutes of about 75 miles while longer drives can be planned for with different approaches.

“You might be surprised to find that you could easily use an EV for a daily commute, putting aside your gas-hungry SUV or truck for weekends and vacation drives,” according to Edmunds.com. “You also might find that you could easily rent a pickup or SUV for the few occasions each year when you really need towing capacity or increased cargo and passenger room.”

Access to Charging Stations
Homeowners with a garage will probably find EV ownership a little easier, since they can easily install charging stations in those garages — 240-volt EV charging stations are best (readily available and easy to install), and 110-volt stations also work, although they charge at a slower rate while apartment dwellers and homeowners without garages might have a more difficult time.

Still, public charging stations are becoming more common in many states and can be found on websites such as this site, a service of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Recharging concerns are also reduced with Partial Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), which switches to a gasoline engine when necessary; however, the more one uses a PHEV’s gasoline engine, the more attractive a pure hybrid becomes. The PHEV Chevrolet Volt for example, gets an EPA-estimated 37 mpg when powered by gasoline, far less than the 50 mpg estimated for the all-hybrid Toyota Prius.

Upfront Price vs. Cost Savings
Electric vehicle detractors say that money saved at the pump during the lifetime of the car is offset by its upfront cost. On the surface, this is true. The 2013 Nissan Leaf, for example, starts at $35,200, well above the cost of the 2013 Toyota Prius (MSRP $24,200). However, federal incentives (and some state incentives) prove to be a great equalizer.

“California buyers of a Leaf or a $29,125 Mitsubishi i EV can knock down the ultimate purchase cost by $10,000 with state and federal incentives,” explains Edmunds.com. “But to finance a purchase, the buyer still would have to qualify for a loan based on the original purchase price. Lenders don’t take future tax credits and state rebates into account.”

As for the energy savings, how long it takes for the upfront cost of an EV to be surpassed by savings at the pump depends on fuel and electricity prices.

“With the national average prices for gasoline at more than $3.75 a gallon and electricity at 11 cents a kilowatt-hour, the fuel cost for driving 15,000 miles in a Leaf is roughly 30 percent of what fuel would cost for a 30-mpg car or truck,” notes Edmunds.com. “It would take six years at these prices to erase an $8,000 price difference between the Leaf and an internal-combustion equivalent. But if you raise the cost of fuel to $5.00 a gallon for gasoline and 14.7 cents per kilowatt for electricity (an increase of about 33 percent for each), the EV earns back that $8,000 from fuel savings alone in just over 4.5 years.”

Environmental Reasons
To many people, the facts and figures regarding costs and driving range are secondary to environmental concerns, and here, there is little debate about the benefits of an EV. As the U.S. Department of Energy states, EVs “emit no tailpipe pollutants, although the powerplant producing the electricity may emit them. Electricity from nuclear-, hydro-, solar- or wind-powered plants causes no air pollutants.”

Moreover, says the DOE, driving an EV reduces dependence on foreign oil, since electricity is a domestic energy source.

Driving Dynamics
Need another reason to go electric? Drivers say that EVs can be more powerful and more fun while eliminating another type of pollution altogether—noise pollution.

“An electric car has fewer parts overall, and fewer moving parts,” explains TheStreet.com. “It gives you 100 percent of the torque right away. It doesn’t require a transmission, and it doesn’t make any meaningful noise. Pressing the accelerator simply has a very different feeling.”

Clearly, for the right person or family, an EV is the right choice. There are significant environmental and driving benefits, assuming one’s driving habits, access to charging stations and budget for upfront costs make purchasing an electric vehicle possible.


Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Five Good Reasons to Have a Checking Account

Checking accounts provide proof of payment, security, convenience and help people monitor and budget their finances

It wasn’t all that long ago that having a checking account was a given, since writing a check was often the only way to pay for goods and services. Spending habits have evolved, but checking accounts are more important than ever, providing proof of payment, payment security, ease and convenience, a way to monitor spending and assistance with budgeting.

Proof of payment

Checking accounts are the ultimate paper trail. Not only does the user receive a monthly statement of checking account activity, checks can also be documented in one’s check register (checkbook) and via a carbon copy for those using duplicate checks. Moreover, most financial institutions will store an electronic image of every check and can make it available upon request.

“Checks provide a paper trail or written proof that you paid someone,” notes the EverythingFinanceBlog.com. “Each time you write a check that ultimately clears your account, there will be several records of it. Having this proof is important for tax purposes (when you make tax deductible charitable donations) and whenever you are paying a person or company by mail.”

Payment security

Checks are, of course, a secure way to send payments through the mail, as they have been for centuries. While money orders provide another option, they are more expensive, require a visit to a financial institution or other issuer and are less convenient if proof of payment is needed down the road.

Money orders pose “a paper-trail concern. While money orders can be tracked, it may not be as convenient as having the backing of the [financial institution] in the event your payment doesn’t make it to your creditor,” says MSN.com.

Ease and convenience of payments

Having a checking account also makes it easier to make electronic payments. “There are many ways to conveniently access your checking account that other types of accounts don’t offer” and, unlike savings accounts, “checking accounts have no Federal limits on the number of electronic transfers you can make each month,” from the website EverythingFinanceBlog.com explains.

Monitoring spending habits

Checks, checkbook registers and the monthly statements provided by financial institutions are all great ways to recall recent payments and gain a better understanding of your spending habits.

“If you spend only in cash and do not write down what you spend or where, you lose the ability to have accurate financial records for planning purposes,” adds MSN.com. “[An] account provides a monthly statement, which shows what you spend and where you spend it. These statements may be necessary at some point in your life, especially if you want to buy a home or qualify for a personal loan.”

Developing Healthy Budgets

Opening up dedicated checking accounts for either specific monthly spending needs or for certain members of the family provide an effective way of increasing frugality and meeting budget goals.

For example, husband and wife checking accounts that receive monthly deposits from a general family checking account allow each person to pay for the responsibilities that are expected of them with some room for fun and spontaneous spending that doesn’t go overboard.

“Husband Checking and Wife Checking accounts” give “each parent autonomy to spend however they see fit while still being held accountable for the overall budget amount,” the website FunCheaporFree.com says. “It motivates them to be frugal where possible” and will “help allocate spending responsibilities for a family, making ‘who is in charge of what’ clear and concise, and makes setting and maintaining a family budget much easier.”

There are a number of reasons to keep a checking account—or multiple checking accounts—including proof of payment, payment security, payment convenience and the ability to monitor spending habits and develop healthy budgets. Advantage One can easily add a checking account to your eCount. We also offer a host of online services that can make using your account a breeze. Visit us online, call us (734.676.7000), or drop by one of our branches for more information.


Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

The True Cost of a College Education

Consider all tuition expenses so you can manage your budget and earn a college degree

A college education is crucial, particularly in today’s challenging job market. Not only does a college or university degree drastically improve a person’s chances of earning his or her dream job, but it also helps ensure a higher salary.

According to U.S. News and World Report, those who hold bachelor’s degrees typically earn roughly $2.27 million in their lifetime. Conversely, people who have only their high school diplomas usually make about $1.30 million in lifetime earnings.

“The payoff from getting a college degree is huge and is actually increasing,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on boosting the number of college graduates in the United States. “For people wondering [if] a college degree [is] worth it: Not only is it worth it, but the premium is growing.”

Gaining an edge in today’s job market is vital, which is making it more important than ever before for both kids and parents to save for school. A recent Millionaire Corner Survey showed that 34 percent of investors said they were currently involved in paying for a child or grandchild to go to college. Meanwhile, 46 percent of these people were concerned about college expenses.

Despite the challenges that surround paying for a college education, there’s tremendous value in getting a degree. However, those who consider the actual cost of tuition – not just the list price – can budget accordingly.

Check out the following tuition expenses to fully understand the true cost of a college education.

  • Housing – College housing is crucial, and the costs of living on- or off-campus vary widely in cities and towns nationwide.Recent U.S. Census Bureau data revealed that 12 percent of college students live on campus. It might prove more cost effective, however, to save money, live at home and commute to campus. Start searching for housing early and review all housing expenses before enrolling in school to determine what option works best.
  • Food – Many colleges and universities require students to sign up for meal plans while other schools may allow pupils to simply buy groceries and cook meals on their own. Weekly, monthly and semester budgets often are helpful for those who are trying to better understand food costs. In addition, picking up a few cookbooks or looking for recipes online is great for those who want to make tasty meals on a budget.

  • Books – Remember, classes change every semester. The U.S. Government Accountability Office notes that textbook prices have risen three times faster than inflation over the past 10 years, a trend that may continue in the foreseeable future.Fortunately, purchasing books online or at secondhand bookstores may be cheaper than buying directly from a college or university. Students can also sell their books at the end of each semester and use the money toward future college expenses.
  • School fees – Tuition is more than just the list price, and many schools charge extra fees that aren’t always included in the initial tuition price. Parents and students need to review every expense associated with a college or university prior to enrolling. Ask questions when selecting a school to avoid potentially expensive school fees down the line.
  • Incidental expenses – Emergencies can happen without notice, and it never hurts to have extra money in the bank. Putting aside even a little money helps, and those who do so may reap significant rewards down the line. 
According to Scholarship Experts, the list price tuition and fees charged by American four-year colleges and universities has increased at an annual rate of 7.1 percent. As the U.S. economy improves, these costs are likely to rise as well, but understanding the true cost of college education allows parents and students to prepare.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser 
Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Listening to Music Online: What Are Your Options?

Get your groove on at these popular sites!ldfinance_pic_002768694
One of the best things about surfing the Internet is finding a free music site. Fortunately for music lovers, there are numerous free online music sources. From Taylor Swift to The Beatles and everything in between, you’ll find a wide variety of music listening possibilities at these five sites.

Grooveshark
Working as both a search engine and a radio stream, Grooveshark is a versatile site where you can easily switch back and forth between the two features. Started in 2007 by a University of Florida musician and student, Grooveshark has evolved into one of the largest on-demand music services with an extensive online music library that was created by artists and listeners. Grooveshark features music favorites, but also focuses on artist development and helping listeners discover new music. To start grooving, go to http://www.grooveshark.com.

Jango
This social music service allows you to create and share custom radio stations. You can add the artists and music you like and share them with other Jango users. Better still, you can also tune into other people’s stations, and they can return the favor by tuning into yours. Click http://www.jango.com to start listening.

Last.fm
A great way to get in tune with your listening habits is this unique site. Utilizing a download named The Scrobbler, it helps you identify the music you play most often and like, which then assists you in discovering more music based on your tastes and listening habits. You can also get more intensely involved by tagging your tracks, joining discussions, finding out what’s hot and trending, and closely examining your listening history to discover the style of music you like best. Go to http://www.last.fm to start listening.

Pandora
If you want to create your own online streaming radio station based on your favorite music, this is the site to do it. You can create up to 100 stations that contain the music you like, whether it’s from a world-renowned artist or new music by up-and-coming artists and bands that you’ve discovered. Enhancing the appeal is that you can also download free apps for your smartphone. To get started, click http://www.pandora.com.

Spotify
You name the artist, and most likely you’ll be able to find their music on Spotify, which has more than a million songs available to listen. To get started, you download a desktop manager and you’re off and listening. You can develop your own playlists and share the music with your friends and family. Spotify is available for your computer, tablet, mobile device and home entertainment system. Go to http://www.spotify.com/us to give it a shot.

Slacker
With a huge library of over 13 million songs and over 26 million listeners, Slacker Radio certainly isn’t a slacker when it comes to content. Slacker does require that you create a free account but comes in two flavors; a free, ad-supported  version and a subscription version. It offers you the ability to search by artist, genre, and even sports a new feature called Mr Vibe that helps you match music by mood or activity. Give it a try by visiting http://www.slacker.com.

So, the next time you’re on the Internet, take the advice of the classic rock group The Doobie Brothers and their 1975 hit tune, “Listen to the Music.”

Used with Permission. Originally published by IMN Bank Adviser. Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.