Why You Should Automate Your Savings

Jumpstart your savings this way

Do you have a savings account? Most people will respond “yes.” But the real question is: is it actually accruing money?

Many people want to save, but when it comes to essentially adding money to their savings account, they’ll find they’d rather use the income for other things. Evidently, saving money is easier said than done. But in the long run, putting money away is much more helpful than harmful.

So how can you make sure that you’re saving as much as you can? One of the best ways to save is to set a certain payment from your paycheck to automatically go directly into your savings. It is worth it.

“You have to automate your savings,” says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst at Bankrate. “If you wait until the end of the month and try to save what’s left, there’s typically nothing left over.”

The easiest way to go about this is to treat your savings like your other bills. “That automatic payment toward your retirement or your emergency savings is just like any other bill,” McBride says. “You’re getting it taken care of right off the bat when you receive your paycheck.” So if you get paid bi-weekly, you’ll be putting aside money twice a month.

“Paying yourself first clears the biggest hurdle for saving, which is simply not being in the habit of saving,” McBride continues. “It takes care of saving money before you have a chance to spend it. About how much to put aside, experts recommend putting 10% of your take-home salary into savings. But if you’re not able to put away that much, don’t fret. As long as you’re consistent, your savings will build.”

If you’re saving for multiple things, consider setting up multiple accounts for each item. Where’s the benefit in that?

“Labeling the various accounts with a specific name that reminds the account holder of what they are saving for can help deter them from withdrawing money from that account and subsequently spending it,” explains Diane Morais, deposits and product integration executive at Ally Financial in Charlotte, NC.

“You can build an emergency savings fund while building a retirement fund or a college fund at the same time,” McBride adds. “You have to attack both at the same time in the same way by automating your contributions.”

Start automating your savings today. It’s quick, painless and, in the long run, will be worth it.

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Top Summer Convertibles

These convertibles will help you make the most out of the summer

There aren’t many things that can beat the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair on a hot summer day. If you’re thinking about getting a convertible, here are three options ranging from practical to aspirational.

Mazda MX-5 Miata
Starting at an MSRP of $23,720, the Miata has been a Car and Driver “10 Best” an impressive 13 times. Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing that produces 167 hp and 140 lb/ft of torque, the MX-5 Miata offers your choice of five-speed manual, six-speed close ratio manual or six-speed automatic transmission with Adaptive Shift Logic.

The MX-5 Miata Near features a near perfect weight distribution while a double wishbone front suspension and multilink rear suspension provides miles of smooth driving. Available in Sport, Club and Grab Touring trims, all models of the MX-5 Miata come standard with a heaping list of standard equipment and available equipment so buyers can choose the right model with the options it really wants.

In fact, car aficionados at Left Lane News rave about the MX-5 Miata.

“When first introduced in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 Miata caused a sensation because it combined the positive characteristics of classic British roadsters, namely a lightweight design and incredibly pure handling, with bulletproof Japanese reliability. Fast forward to the present, and the Miata continues to deliver the same qualities in a slightly larger, more powerful package,” according to Left Lane News.

The 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE
Up next is the 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE, starting at an MSRP of $69,000. Available in three models, F-TYPE, F-TYPE S and F-TYPE V8 S, the F-TYPE is a perfect blend of luxury, design and power. Standard on F-TYPE models is a 340 hp V6 engine with an eight-speed ZF transmission. F-TYPE S models push the power up to 380 hp through the use of a Supercharger and F-TYPE V8 S models dominate with a 495 hp Supercharged V8 mill.

All models come standard with leather seating, Intelligent Start/Stop and a Navigation system with Traffic Messaging. Available features include 20-inch wheels, an Electronic Active Differential, power folding exterior mirrors and an Active Sport Exhaust.

“In my experience, this is the best Jaguar in decades. That’s based on driving for long trips in mixed conditions. It’s a car that gets better the more it’s driven. On the road, the Jag just feels a bit more special than the Porsches, and the reactions from the cars-and-coffee guys proved it,” according to AutoWeek.

Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet
For those who want to dream big, this Porsche is a great place to aim. With an MSRP just shy of $200,000, this car isn’t exactly for everyone. However, the 911 Turbo S Cabriolet is powered by a phenomenal 3.8-liter V6 that produces a remarkable 560 hp and 516 lb/ft of torque (that can jump to 553 lb/ft with an overboost function) through a seven-speed PDK (short for Porsche Doppelkupplung). A top speed of 197 mph and a 3.0- second zero-to-60 mph time are impressive, but when you add in a 24 mpg highway rating, you start to see that this Porsche is simply incredible.

Regardless of what you choose to buy, financing is only a phone call away, so stop by today to let us get you one step closer to driving the car of your dreams.

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Easy Green Habits You Can Adopt Today

Nine quick changes to benefit the environment

Living a life thatldfinance_e_a002979774 is friendly to the environment doesn’t necessarily mean making sweeping changes in all areas of your life. Buying an electric car, installing solar panels on your home or living off the grid can be too costly for some and too extreme for others. A few small changes to your everyday life can reduce your carbon footprint and make a difference in the world around you.

Use fewer disposable products
Much landfill waste is created by disposable products used only for convenience. Paper plates, Styrofoam cups, plastic silverware and disposable water bottles are mostly used to save time washing dishes. Whenever possible, choose reusable items first before reaching for disposable items that will end up in the trash.

Buy products with less packaging
Many products come with a ridiculous amount of packaging, intended only to help sell the product while displayed on store shelves. When shopping for items, opt for the item with less packaging and less waste.

Drive less and exercise more
Carpooling with others, combining errands in one trip, or walking and biking to your destination will save money on gas expenses and result in less carbon emissions in the air. As an added bonus, walking or biking will also improve your overall health.

Purchase items secondhand
Buying something used often saves that item from going into a landfill and prevents less waste. Look for pre-owned items first, before buying a new item.

Give away items vs. throwing them in the trash
Even though you may not have a use for your unwanted clothing and furniture, others might. Before throwing your stuff in the trash, offer it for free to others who might have a need for it. A young mother might welcome your children’s clothes, and a college student may welcome your discarded furniture.

Choose cloth over plastic shopping bags
One trip to the grocery store can easily yield 10 or more plastic shopping bags. Keep a stash of cloth shopping bags in the trunk of your car for shopping trips and use them over and over again.

Hang clothes to dry
Whenever possible, hang your clothes to dry instead of expending energy from your dryer. Even hanging two loads of laundry a week will reduce your electric bill and help preserve your clothing.

Change your light bulbs
Although energy-efficient light bulbs can cost more than traditional bulbs when you purchase them, the energy savings over time is substantial. As your light bulbs burn out, consider replacing them with newer, energy-efficient bulbs.

Choose virtual bills
The extra paper and waste created from paper billing results in more trash. Many companies now offer email billing. Paying online can also save on the production and disposal of paper, as well as time and money on postage.

Making a few small changes to your daily habits can help you live a life that is friendlier to the environment and benefits the world around you.

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Four Loans to Avoid

Sidestep these loans for less financial troubles

When you’re in a financial bind, it may seem like taking out a loan is an easy out. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you risk losing a lot more than you’ve gained.

Unless absolutely needed, most of the time, certain loans aren’t worth it. Which ones, you ask? Steer clear of these particular loans:

1. Payday loan
The good part about a payday loan is that you get an advance on your next paycheck. But the bad news is, you’re also paying the lender fees and interest.

“A payday loan can be approved within a matter of hours and there is typically no credit check,” explains Theodore W. Connolly, author of The Road Out of Debt. “Usually, you write a personal check payable to the payday lender for the amount you wish to borrow plus a fee. The check is dated for your next payday or another agreeable date within the next couple of weeks when you figure you’ll be able to repay the loan.”

It may be easy money, but in the long run, you’re probably going to pay much more than you were lent. “You will most likely end up paying three, four or even 10 times the amount you originally borrowed. Debt created by payday loans will often quadruple in just one year,” says Connolly. “One tiny mistake can mean lifelong debt.”

2. Pawnshop loan
This type of short-term loan is when you offer a valuable personal item — jewelry, electronics, musical equipment, etc. — to a pawnshop. In return, the shop gives you a loan that’s a percentage of what the item is worth. Already, you’re subject to a possible service charge, but there are many other fees involved, too.

“Pawnshop loans are nearly all state-regulated, and ‘finance charges’ can vary from five percent per month to 25 percent per month. In Indiana, the ‘interest rate’ is capped at 36 percent APR or three percent per month, but pawnshops can charge an additional 20 percent per month service charge, making the total allowable finance charge 23 percent per month,” says Steve Krupnik of South Bend, Ind., and author of the book Pawnonomics. If you’re unable to repay the loan and interest when the loan period ends, the pawnshop keeps the item for profit.

3. Car title loans
A car title loan is where someone uses their car as collateral to borrow money. The bad news: it charges 300 percent interest, plus you run the risk of losing your car.

“We consider these loans to be a triple threat for borrowers,” says Ginna Green, spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, NC. Whereas most car loan lenders take into consideration the borrower’s financial situation (their income, mortgage, credit and other bills) to make sure the payments are affordable. “Car title lenders don’t do that,” Green says. “They get a lot of folks trapped in debt, and to the point where they’ve got their family vehicle on the hook.”

4. Tax refund loan
Offered by some tax preparation services, these loans are what are given to you in anticipation of what you’ll get back for your actual tax refund. You’d then pay them back once you get your refund. So if you were looking to use your tax refund on something that you’d like to have or need right away, this may sound like a good option, but realistically, like other loans, there are fixed fees and interest costs attached to them. Tax refunds loans are typically pretty small, meaning that with the high costs associated with the loan, you’ll end up paying much more than you’d like.

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Seven Ways to Save at the Supermarket

Cut your grocery bill today

Food shopping177781964 is an essential part of living for every family. But over the years, prices on fare have increased steadily, causing households to spend more and more on their weekly groceries. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average American family shells out nearly $540 a month on food, with an average of approximately $312 for groceries. But unlike your mortgage or gas bill, what you spend on food is flexible. Start with these tips to reduce your supermarket spending today:

1. Scour store sales and stock up
While many people think it’s the coupons that save families in groceries, it’s more so store sales — and combining a store sale and a coupon is one of the best money saving things you can do. Also, when something nonperishable that you use is on sale, it’s a good idea to stock up. It may seem counterintuitive at the time to spend more money (since you’re buying more), but in the end, you can save hundreds. Meats are also good to buy in bulk when they’re on sale, as they will freeze well.

2. …But don’t be fooled by said sales
Many times, a store will list a product for something along the lines of “buy five for $10” when, if you do the math, you may only be saving a couple cents. Also, keep in mind that when sales like these are listed, many times, you don’t need to buy five products, or whatever amount listed to get the sale price. So, for example, if a sale is for “two for $5,” buying one will cost you $2.50. Retailers are just listing that price in hopes that you’ll buy more. Don’t fall for it!

3. Clip coupons.
Search your Sunday newspaper or visit websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com where many manufacturer coupons can be found and printed for free. There are also sites such as CouponMom.com, LivingRichWithCoupons.com and TheGroceryGame.com that offer up-to-date sales-tracking services for most states and grocery chains. In addition, it’s a good idea to shop at the stores that double your coupons (usually under 99 cents).

4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach.
Even if you know you’re on a budget, a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that you’re likely to spend more money if you don’t eat beforehand. So, before you hit the market, have a meal or take a snack with you if you’re on the go.

5. Use cash.
“It’s psychologically more difficult to fork over cash than a credit card,” says Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com’s household savings expert. It’s said that using cash when grocery shopping will cut your spending by about 25 percent. Before going grocery shopping, stop at an ATM so that you’re fully stocked up on cash. You could also start a “grocery jar” and drop a few bucks into it each day or week, and use it solely for food shopping.

6. Keep your focus.
Does a product ever catch your eye so much that you evidently stop and examine it, mulling over whether you should purchase it? It turns out that the more you interact with a product, the more likely you are to buy it.

“Virtually all unplanned purchases…come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment,” says Paco Underhill in the book Why We Buy. Another way to avoid impulse buys? Ride your bike or walk to the store.

“It’s amazing how focused you can be when you are limited to one shopping bag full of groceries,” says Ross Williams, writer at www.simplemindedinvestor.com. “Once you are very conscious of each purchase, it seems to carry over even to the small items where space isn’t really an issue.”

7. Check over your receipt.
Just because a product is on sale doesn’t mean the register will automatically ring it up correctly. Always watch your products being scanned and if something trips you up, don’t be afraid to ask politely if that price is correct.

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Common Misconceptions About 529 Plans

What you should know about saving for college with a 529 Plan

Helping your childbankingon_e_a002986918 decide where to go to college can be confusing, but understanding your investment options to help pay for it doesn’t have to be. Some simple knowledge about savings plans can help make the process easier. A 529 Plan is one of the safest and most flexible ways to save. The following information can help you clear up some common misconceptions about 529 Plans.

Short term investments aren’t worth it
Some people feel that if their child is going to school in the next few years, or if they themselves are interested in continuing their education in the near future, that a 529 Plan is pointless. This is not the case.

“While it is true that there’s not much opportunity for the money saved in a tax-advantaged investment account to grow if the money is only in there for a year, it’s a myth that there’s no point in adults saving for their own education to put money into a 529 plan,” according to the U.S. News & World Report. “Savers who want to start school in the fall of 2015 should start saving before the fall semester this year.”

Be sure to carefully review the withdrawal guidelines and minimums of a plan before you begin investing. When you find one that meets your needs, you can begin reaping the benefits right away.

“We have a $1,000 tax credit that can be taken right off their income tax,” states Jodi Golden, executive director of the Indiana Education Savings Authority, which has a College Choice Direct 529 Plan that only requires money stay in the plan for 12 months.

There are restrictions imposed by which state the plan comes from
Although many people choose the 529 Plan offered by their own state, you may actually use any state’s plan. The reason so many people pick their home state’s plan is because it can offer more tax benefits.

“Many states give you a state income tax break if you use the plan offered by your home state,” states Dan Danford, CEO of Family Investment Center. “If you don’t like the plan your state offers, you may not get the state income tax breaks, but you still get all the benefits of tax-free accumulation and withdrawals.”

There is one other common myth regarding the flexibility of state plans. Some people are aware that they can choose another state’s plan, but believe that their child must then go to school in that state. Fortunately, your child can go to school wherever they desire, and you can choose a plan from whichever state you prefer.

“There is no restriction or requirement to use 529 assets for a school (in a state) in which the taxpayer or beneficiary resides,” says Mary McConnell, director of college savings products for Charles Schwab in San Francisco.” People can use that money for qualified expenses for any school that’s been accredited for financial aid, and that includes many international programs.”

You can’t change beneficiaries
Many people are worried that they will be penalized for changing beneficiaries if one child decides not to go to college. This may inhibit parents from starting to save early, which is the best way to save. Investors can rest assured, however, because there are no tax penalties for changing beneficiaries.

“While there are tax penalties for taking out money from 529 plans to pay for things that are not considered qualified education expenses, there isn’t a tax penalty for changing the beneficiary,” according to the U.S. News & World Report. “Adults who own an account for a college-age student can change the beneficiary to themselves, especially if the student has finished college.”

You lose control of your investment
Some people may be wary of investing in a 529 plan because they do not want to give up control of the money they have saved for their child to attend college. After working so hard to save, many parents are afraid that their student will use the money unwisely, so they hold onto their funds in their own savings account. The fact of the matter is, however, that you can stay in control of the distributions.

“Each account has an owner (or joint owners) and that person controls the assets, regardless of how many people contribute,” according to Kiplinger. “The owner doesn’t have to be a parent.”

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Top Three New Car Values

How much you pay is as important as what you buy

Buying a car is always an important and tedious decision. When you do your research to find out which cars have the features you really want, it’s just as important to find out which cars are really good values in their segment, too.

If you’re looking for a midsize sedan, and a large percentage of the population is, there are a huge amount of great options. Out of the numerous options available, the Hyundai Sonata seems to frequently rise to the top. At a starting MSRP of $21,450, the Sonata checks in less than competitors including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion. And with multiple versions, including a Hybrid, you’re sure to find the right model for you.

Kelley Blue Book summed up the Sonata as the family sedan that began the styling revolution. “The 2014 Hyundai Sonata remains one of the most attractive, efficient and affordable four-door cars in the midsize market, and no one has yet to match its impressive 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, let alone its price-per-feature ratio,” according to Kelley Blue Book.

If you’re looking for a smaller car, the Honda Fit is hard to beat. The 2013 Fit, with its starting MSRP of $15,425, has been a perennial favorite of both consumers and journalists alike. The Fit has been named a Car & Driver “10Best” every year since its inception in 2007. A “Best Resale Value” award from KBB.com, “Residual Value Award” from ALG and a “Best Car For the Money” award from US News have also been given to the Fit.

“There’s something here for a wide swath of people. Whether it is accommodating passengers or carrying odd objects, the Fit conforms to you,” says Edmunds. “Nearly all the things that made the old Fit appealing have been made better – it’s nimble, sips less fuel and has a more occupant-friendly cabin. And with its more settled freeway demeanor and less annoying steering, the Fit feels more grown-up than ever.”

If a small SUV is what you seek, you’ll do just fine with the 2015 Mazda CX-5 with a starting MSRP of just $21,545. With three trim levels to choose from (Sport, Touring and Grand Touring) the CX-5 is both versatile and fuel efficient, a rarity in the segment. There are two engines available, as well as a manual transmission that enthusiasts are sure to enjoy. Best of all, the CX-5 gets excellent fuel economy in all trim levels.

“Now entering its third year of production, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 continues to climb the sales charts, quickly becoming one of the most well-reviewed and desirable compact crossover SUVs around,” according to Auto Trader. “While the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 still dominate as sales-volume leaders, neither has the sporty handling or clean, uncluttered instrument panel of the CX-5, nor can they match its impressive highway fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon. The CX-5 is also one of the few crossovers that still offers the option of a manual transmission.”

Do your homework and see which model is best for your lifestyle today, but remember, your financial institution is the best place to go for excellent rates for your next vehicle.

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