There’s Still Time to Enter…

but time is running out!SnapshotPromo Advantage One FCU’s $napshot contest is running through the end of February, so you still have a few days to get entered to win.

Read our previous post here or check out all of the specifics on the AOFCU website. You could win up to $1,000!

So head over to MyBranch and give $napshot a try while there’s still time! Once you enroll (don’t worry, the service is completely free, no strings attached!) and set up a goal, you’ll be entered to win!

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Advantage One FCU Scholarship Reminder

We wanted to post a quick direct depositreminder regarding our available scholarships. You have until March 31st to get the requested materials turned in to us! You can read more about Advantage One’s  scholarship program here.

We love reading your submissions and getting to help one of our members is a great feeling, so get those submissions turned in today!

Top Three Dream Cars

What kind of car would you buy with a budget that knows no bounds?

Are you an absolute automotive fanatic? So much so that you find yourself daydreaming about owning several exotic models of all your favorites? Are you constantly surfing the web for the newest models of your preferred brand, reading reviews on car websites, pinning car-related pictures on Pinterest? Lamborghinis and Porsches and convertibles, oh my!

High-end luxurious cars constituting “dream cars” may not necessarily be the most affordable ones on the road, but they’re certainly the most to die for. And even though we could probably list many more, we’ve scoured the Internet for the top three top dream cars ranking among the world’s wish lists. Read on to find out more details about them:

1. Rolls Royce Phantom
Price: MSRP of $398,970

Luxurious. Powerful. Exotic. What else could you want? “With its powerful stance, iconic proportions and state-of-the-art technology, the latest expression of Phantom is a timeless interpretation of the modern luxury motor car,” the Rolls Royce website states. The exterior is decked out with both wood and metal is more than 19 feet long. The elegant interior boasts hand-stitched leather upholstery, lambswool rugs, as well as an 8.8-inch color screen, a multi-camera system and a USB port. It also has a 6.7-liter V12 with 453 hp and 531 lb/ft of torque. Sure, it may cost as much as a standard single-family home in most states, but as the director of design for the Phantom, Giles Taylor, says, “It has a sense of purpose, a simple clarity and effortless poise.”

2. Ferrari 458 Spider
Price: MSRP of $257,412

This convertible has it all — technology, design and above all, beauty. This stunner boasts a 4.5-liter V8 that produces 562 hp and 398 lb/ft of torque, and an estimated acceleration from zero-to 60-mph in 3.4 seconds. It has impressive equipment such as 20-inch wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes and adjustable driving and vehicle settings. The leather upholstery and trim give it a high-end luxury feel, and the Bluetooth and sound system, including an auxiliary audio jack, come standard to please the technology-savvy car owner. An aluminum retractable hardtop completes the work-of-art design.

3. Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera Edizone Tecnica
Price: $241,200

A type of Gallardo model, this jaw-dropping masterpiece features front- and rear-end styling, automated manual transmission and carbon-fiber components in both the exterior and interior. Its high-performance speed and acceleration is sure to please any joy-riding speed demon: A 5.2-liter V10, with 570 hp and 397 lb/ft of torque that gets the car up to 60 mph in about three seconds. In fact, in an article on Daily Mail UK, car reviewer Chris Evans calls this model “the most exciting and frightening road-legal car I have driven in 47 years.” You’ll also love the car’s 19-inch aluminum wheels and fixed rear spoiler, which give the exterior an exotic feel. Beautiful faux suede upholstery adorns the inside.

We can help finance your personal dream car (although probably far less expensive), so stop by today.


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

Tax Resources for the New Year

With the coming of the new year,tax forms it’s also time to start thinking about this year’s tax return. April will be here before you know it, so it’s good to start planning now.

By the end of January, you should have received everything you need to file your return. Obviously if you’re getting a refund, it’s best to file as soon as you can to get your refund back sooner. Even if you owe money, it may be best to simply file and get it over with so that you aren’t worried about it longer than necessary.

Something that AOFCU has always tried to do is be a good value for our members. In that vein, we’ve partnered with the good folks over at Love My Credit Union to offer you some great tax service discounts, just for being our member. One of these is a discount on Turbo Tax, or, if you prefer to sit with a tax preparer,  a coupon for use at Jackson Hewitt. Turbo Tax is also running a sweepstakes this year, so who knows, maybe paying your taxes early really pays off!

Check out the full details by clicking here!

Six Student Loan Rights You Need to Know

It’s no surprise that in recent154271153_336x189 years, more and more students are graduating college with thousands in student debt. In fact, between 2007 and 2012, student loan amounts increased 75 percent, according to a TransUnion study. But what recent grads may not know is that there are many options that can help take the burden off and help you repay federal student loans. Consider the following decisions:

1. Loan forgiveness. If you work in certain public service organizations, such as law enforcement, early childhood education, public health, the military, etc., you may qualify for loan forgiveness of your remaining loans, given the fact that you’ve made 120 payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.

Note: Only Direct Loans qualify; FFEL, Perkins Loans and any other student loan programs don’t qualify. Visit www.studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service for more information.

2. Consolidation. If you’re paying back several federal loans, you may have the option of combining them into one single monthly bill.

“Consolidation can make it easier to repay student loans by streamlining repayment and replacing multiple loans with a single loan,” said financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com. It can also possibly lower your monthly payment, pending if the minimum monthly payment on your consolidation is lower than the payment for your combined loans.

One caveat: Consolidation may increase the length of repayment, which means more accrued interest. That’s why it’s important to compare your current repayment bill to what the amount would be if you consolidated, to make sure it makes sense for you. Ask yourself if it would increase or decrease your monthly payments, and also how long you’d be repaying your loan. If you do choose to consolidate, visit www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov.

3. Deferring your payments. If you’re in graduate school or the military, you have the right to defer your payments until you’re out. If you’re unemployed when your loans kick in, a hardship deferment can be given. Additionally, if you have a medical issue that forbids you from working, you may have the right to forbearance, which stops or shrinks your monthly payments for up to a year. (However, it’s important to note that interest still accrues during this time.)

4. Altering your payment schedule. While the standard amount of time to repay your loans is 10 years, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re required to do so in that amount of time. You may have the right to an extended repayment plan, which can increase your repayment to up to 25 years. There are even some ways to tie your monthly payment to a percentage of your income — these are called “Income Based Repayment” and “Pay as You Earn.” And, vice versa, you’re allowed to repay your student loans early as well.

5. Deducting loan interest. You’ll be sent a Form 1098-E from your lender that will list the amount of interest you paid on your student loans in the last year. You can deduct student loan interest up to $2,500, depending on several factors. To calculate how much you can deduct, visit www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch04.html.

6. Contacting your lender or loan servicer. It may sound obvious, but calling up your student loan point of contact is something many borrowers don’t take advantage of. You can contact them at any time you’d like with any questions you have. They can also help you figure out the type of student repayment plan of action that’s right for you.

“I think a plan is really important,” Douglas Wells, a partner at Albion Financial Group, said. “It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to have an overview of how you’re going to get out of debt, how you’re going to save up the money that you need to pay off this debt and then also to save above and beyond that.”

Find your lender or loan servicer at www.nslds.ed.gov or call 1-800-4-FED-AID. Better yet, stop by today and see how we can help you.


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

Beat the Odds and Stay on Budget

Don’t let the good intentions of your financial planning fizzle out before becoming practical realities

According to a recent survey conducted by AARP, less than three-fourths of Americans have a monthly budget they try to stick to. The survey didn’t ask how many people were successful with staying on budget, but previous measures suggest that there isn’t cause for a great deal of optimism.

Creating a budget is pretty easy, most of the time. All it takes is the willingness to spend an hour or two going over income spending habits and making the numbers come out right. Sticking to that budget is something that requires daily attention, though, as every dollar in and out affects your bottom line.

As much as budgets are about discipline, the experts all agree on one thing: a successful budget is a flexible budget. Without a little wiggle room for emergencies, tiny (and infrequent!) splurges and some unaccounted for costs, your budget is almost guaranteed to go out the window at some point.

“Setting too rigid a budget is self-defeating. Like an overly-restrictive diet, you won’t stick to it,” say the editors of The New York Times Practical Guide to Practically Everything. “But slow and steady gains can be made by setting realistic goals as you periodically reassess your target goals.”

Organization is also key in creating an appropriate budget and making sure you stick with it. You have to know what’s coming in and what’s going out, and you have to understand how each day’s expenses and incomes affect your long-term goals.

When you have a detailed and realistic budget — one that takes your real financial situation into account and affords you a bit of flexibility — it’s time to look at ways to cut spending and make sure you stick to your budget.

There are some simple steps: use cash if you tend to overspend on credit cards, set aside a specific amount for discretionary spending each week, move money directly from your paycheck into a savings or investment account and never touch this account for normal expenses. All these are basic ways to keep within your budget.

Other methods of preventing a budget bust are more involved, but often just as necessary. Getting each member of your household onboard with the budget is often difficult, but is an absolute requirement if you want to avoid busting that balanced budget.

“Financial goals and household budgets are very important, but equally so are your marital money rules,” says Daily Finance writer Nicole Seghetti. “Think of this as a contract between you and your spouse regarding how you will work together financially. Establish guidelines for how much money you can spend without having to ‘preauthorize,’ or check in, with your significant other.”

Once the rules are established and a workable budget has been laid out, check in with spending and income regularly—daily, to start out with. If you’re getting off track, figure out why and fix the underlying problem, don’t just tell yourself to “spend less.”

Follow these tips, and you’ll be well ahead of the pack when it comes to future financial freedom.


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

Savings vs. Student Loans: Which Should You Prioritize?

Ask a group of financial shutterstock_128157245advisers to name one thing people should do to improve their financial outlook, and “save” is guaranteed to be the top response. But given a choice between savings and debt reduction, which is more important?

If you want a mathematical answer, there’s a lot of number crunching involved. Given today’s economic climate, the interest on your debt — even the relatively low interest charged federally subsidized student loans — might be higher than what you can earn through secure savings vehicles like savings accounts, CDs and money market funds. Given this situation, paying off your student loans early could be to your advantage.

“Once you have a modest balance in your emergency fund (say around $1,000 or so), begin working on your debt reduction plans,” suggests one popular online banking service. “That way, if an emergency does come up, you can address it without adding to your debt. Once you’ve eliminated your high interest debt, you can concentrate on saving up even more in your emergency fund. It’s conventional wisdom to have at least six months of living expenses saved up in an easily accessed account.”

Of course, if the situation changes and it becomes easy to get returns on savings and investments that are at rates higher than your student loan debt, then the effects of compound interest make maxing out your savings contributions each month a better long-term choice than maxing out your loan payments.

“From a financial standpoint, if the interest rate on your debt is lower than the interest rate on your savings or investment, then you’d get a higher return by saving versus paying off debt,” says credit and debt management expert LaToya Irby. “There are also tax benefits to retirement savings. The money you contribute to a 401(k) can often [be] excluded from your taxable income, resulting in a lighter tax burden. Take advantage of your employer’s offer to match contributions to your 401(k) plan. Don’t turn down free money.”

In other words, it’s better to save when saving gets you more money than you’ll spend on the student loan. Your own specific financial situation — the interest rate you have to pay on your student loan debt, the interest rate you can earn in safe and secure investments and the impact of your savings decisions on your tax burden are all important considerations.

In all likelihood, you will be better off in today’s economy paying down your student loan debt first. There are also psychological aspects of this question to consider, however, and the general recommendation given by financial and personal wealth experts is to save something — typically a set percentage of your income — every month. This will build a strong savings habit that you can make even stronger when you clear out that student loan debt.

“Allocate 50% of all you are able to save to your emergency fund, and 50% to debt reduction until you have four to six months’ of living expenses in your emergency fund,” recommends Ted Hunter, author of Money Smart. Once you’ve built up this emergency fund, “eliminate all debt except that which involves your home and your car, then maximize the tax-deferred savings allowed to you.”

Whether you follow Hunter’s strategy or not, you’ll need to examine your specific debt obligations and savings/investment opportunities before making a decision. With low returns on today’s savings vehicles, aggressively paying down your student loan debt while still contributing regularly to savings is likely to be the best choice.


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