Top Used Car Values

Buying used can save you thousands!

Buying a new vehicle is always an UsedCars_Featuredexciting venture, but it’s normally associated with a hefty price tag. And even worse, in most cases, the minute you drive that vehicle off the lot, it loses a solid chunk of its value. So if you’re looking for a vehicle that’s new to you, buying something used is a great way to save thousands and still get just what (or even more than) you’re looking for.

Getting a used vehicle doesn’t mean you need to settle. Sure, you can find a Toyota Camry or Honda Civic, and it will provide you with years of hassle free driving. However, if you’re looking for a little excitement, there are still plenty of great bargains out there to be had.

Being comfortable going to a private seller (especially on Craigslist) is a big plus, as they don’t have the markup normally associated with a dealership. Stopping by your financial institution for a loan can help you figure out how much you can afford, and better yet, you could have the cash in hand to make the deal when you choose.

There are plenty of lists that show you what $10,000 can get you. On AutoTraders’ list, you can find a MINI Cooper (2007), a vehicle known for its quirky personality and fun driving manners. Its unique design doesn’t hurt either.

AutoBytel listed the Ford Crown Victoria (a 2010 model can be yours for under $10,000), a great vehicle for those looking for a roomy cabin and excellent highway companion. You can even spring for a 2008 Infiniti G35. Popular Mechanics did their own list and they found a 2000 Chevrolet Corvette (new models sell for over $55,000) and the BMW Z3 sports car.

US News has their own list dedicated to more recent models you can find under $10,000, and a few of them include the 2009 Scion tC, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra, the 2010 Nissan Cube, and the 2009 Pontiac Vibe.

A vehicle you previously thought was out of your price range may be closer than you think if you do your research. Regardless of which model you choose, start with the right auto loan, and you’ll be on your way to saving money while driving a vehicle that’s new to you.

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

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Safe Online Banking

Tips for a safer online banking experience

Online banking toolsSafeOnline_Featured have revolutionized the world of personal finance. You can deposit checks, transfer funds and pay bills all without leaving the comfort of your home, but you need to make sure that you’re doing these things safely.

“The Internet offers the potential for safe, convenient new ways to shop for financial services and conduct banking business, any day, anytime,” states the FDIC. “However, safe banking online involves making good choices — decisions that will help you avoid costly surprises or even scams.”

With an online-only bank, you have to take more steps to verify that the website or mobile app comes from a legitimate financial institution and is not just run by a scammer. You also still have to be careful when using the online services offered by your financial institution. A common practice for scammers is to create websites that are similar to those of a real bank, in order to trick people into giving out their personal information and their passwords and other account information. Before you enter any information into a website, double-check the URL to make sure it is correct. And always make sure the website begins with “https” to ensure that it’s secure.

Similarly, don’t click a link that comes from an email, even if that email seems exactly like the ones your financial institution typically sends. Instead, open a browser and navigate to the website yourself. Taking this extra step ensures that you end up at the correct page and are not rerouted to a fraudulent one.

Make sure you have a strong password for your online banking and change it regularly. Don’t choose anything that could be easily guessed, such as your birthday, family members’ birthdays, addresses or anniversaries. It’s best to not use any word that can be found in the dictionary, because hacking software can quickly scan through those and land on the correct one. Replacing letters with numbers that look the same and putting an exclamation point at the end of a word are overused tricks and also easy for scammers to guess.

Furthermore, it should go without saying that your banking password shouldn’t be the same as your password for other things. Your password goes to your financial institution through an encryption system that protects it from hackers, but if you use the same password for other websites, there are many ways to obtain it. Since many people reuse passwords, it is common for hackers to try a discovered password on more than one account.

“Okay, in the real world you probably have more than one online financial account. Rather than strain your brain memorizing tough, hard-to-crack passwords for each of them, enlist the help of a password manager,” says Neil J. Rubenking from PCMag.com. “The best ones not only store your passwords securely but also help you work through your collection of passwords and replace weak ones and duplicates.”

It’s best if you don’t access online banking when you are not using your own network. You don’t know how many other people are using it and how it is secured or monitored.

“If you can’t resist, at least connect through a virtual private network,” states Rubenking. “Now nobody can read your encrypted traffic. For free VPN protection, we like CyberGhost and VPNBook. Commercial VPNs like Private Internet Access and Norton Hotspot Privacy are ad-free, with more power and flexibility.”

Using a VPN will change your IP address. This means that your financial institution’s website will not recognize your incoming traffic and may ask for more information on top of your correct password to try to authenticate that you are whom you claim to be. These measures can include asking set security questions or requiring secondary phone or email authentication, if you have those features enabled. If you think you forgot the answer to your security question, wait until you get home so you don’t get locked out of your account by making too many wrong guesses.

If you can’t wait until you get home and you have a smartphone or tablet, just turn off Wi-Fi and use your mobile connection. Anyone else could be monitoring public Wi-Fi, but your mobile data plan is difficult for outsiders to access.

Last, make sure you review your banking transactions regularly to ensure that there isn’t something there that shouldn’t be.

Online banking can make your life easier, but you need to make sure it’s safe. Stop by today to let us know if you have any questions.

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

Guide to Investing in Your 20s

The ages between 20 and 29 are the best time to begin investing your money

It’s true that millennialsInvest_Featured have a tendency to want to put their money toward anything instead of socking it away — from clothing to concerts to a night out. In fact, only 28 percent of millennials believe that long-term investing is an important path to success, compared to 52 percent of non-millennials, according to a UBS report. But the truth is, your 20s might be the best time to begin investing money.

“The sooner you start saving and investing, the easier it is on your budget,” says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “The sooner you start, the less you have to save because you have time on your side.” That’s because money invested throughout your 20s will continue to gain interest. Think of it this way: Investing a mere dollar at age 25 could be more than five times as valuable as doing so at age 45.

So how can you start investing? It might be easier than you think. Take these first steps and you’ll be on your way to meet your retirement goals:

Evaluate your current financial situation. It’s important to not jump right into investing if you can’t afford to do so — that won’t help anybody.

“If you don’t have at least three to six months’ [income] in a cash reserve account, I don’t think you should start investing,” says Dominique Broadway, a financial planner, personal finance coach and founder of Finances De×mys×ti×fied and the Social Money Tour. “You don’t want to lose your cash cushion or emergency fund.” So if that’s the case, save up a reserve and then take on investing.

Put away 10 percent of each paycheck. Or as much as you can. The key here isn’t so much about what amount to put away but rather understanding to do it now, because time is on your side. Even if you’re just setting aside 5 percent of each paycheck, the amount, over time, will blossom into a good-sized amount in retirement.

“Building habits, especially in your 20s, is so important for long-term success,” says John Deyeso, a certified financial planner.

Start a 401(k) or IRA. Many jobs offer a 401(k), and if yours does, you’ll definitely want to take advantage. A 401(k) allows employees to contribute a percentage of their paychecks tax free. Try to invest as much as you can into a 401(k), and take advantage of whatever your company will match. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), you can open an IRA. It’s important to open one of these accounts in your 20s. In your 30s, you can contribute twice as much and still not have as much as if you’d started in your 20s.

“Every $1,000 saved in your mid-20s grows to over $10,000 at retirement, assuming 6 percent growth every year. But waiting until your mid-30s means that same $1,000 will only grow to $6,000,” explains Shane Leonard, a chartered financial analyst and the CEO at Stockflare.

Don’t be afraid of risks. When you’re young, you can risk jumping at every opportunity and not having them work out, because it gives you more leeway for a reward later in life.

“You may need to take risks when you’re younger,” says Erin Baehr, author of “Growing Up and Saving Up.” “You may take one job over another and find it doesn’t work out. But when you’re younger, you have the ability to do that. And then that can parlay into a bigger return down the road.”

Investing early should pay major dividends in the future. Stop by today and speak with one of our representatives to see your options.

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

Tips for Building Your Credit Score

If your credit score could use a boost, read these foolproof tips

There’s a certain three-digitCreditScore_Featured number that can make all the difference between being denied or approved for credit, and whether you’ll receive a low or high interest rate. That number is called a credit score, and it’s derived from your payment history, accounts owed, length of credit history, types of credit used and other factors.

Many of the credit-related decisions you make can have an impact on your credit score. For example, skipping a payment on a credit card bill can have a negative impact on your score. Your credit score defines you financially, and if you do something to negatively impact it, you could face a risky financial future with poor credit.

“A low score warns lenders that you might be an unreliable borrower, which can thwart you from getting the credit you need,” writes Credit Karma contributor Jenna Lee. “A high credit score can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your loans.”

So how can you build up your score in the unfortunate event it’s not where you’d hoped? Read on for expert advice on improving your credit score.

Get rid of small balances on several cards. “A good way to improve your score is to eliminate nuisance balances,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at Credit Sesame. “That way, you’re not polluting your credit report with a lot of balances.”

Since your credit score takes into account how many of your cards have balances, charging a few dollars on one card and then a few on another, instead of using the same card to make multiple purchases, can negatively impact your credit score. To build your score up again, pay off all the small balances you have on your cards, and then use just one or two cards for the majority of your everyday purchases.

Pay bills on time. If you’re skipping payments or paying them late, your credit will suffer. If you’re struggling to pay bills by their deadlines, try setting reminders on your smartphone or leaving sticky notes on your desk with the payment information and deadline for all your bills. Or hire a financial planner to help you get organized, which will help with paying bills on time.

“It isn’t necessarily hard — it just takes discipline,” says Hitha Prabhakar, a retail and consumer analyst and spokesperson for Mint.com.

Keep old debt. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s actually better for your credit score if you leave old debt on your report. Some of that debt is good for your score, and trying to get older accounts off your credit score simply due to the fact that they’re paid off isn’t wise either.

Why? The longer your history of good debt, the better it is for your credit score. When you attempt to eliminate old good debt, it’s like getting great grades throughout school and trying to get your records erased down the line. You want to keep it around.

Get rid of student loans. If feasible, try to pay off those pesky student loans in a timely manner.

“If you pay your student loans in full and on time each month, the credit bureaus will make a record of that on a continuing 30-day basis,” writes contributor for NerdWallet Divya Raghavan. “And that will demonstrate to future lenders that you can be trusted to handle money responsibly.”

Keep new accounts to a minimum. Every time you open a regular or retail credit card, or even just apply for one, your report is looked at to determine whether or not you’ll receive the credit.

“Since a lot of hard inquiries may make it look like you’re desperate or aren’t getting approved for credit, it’s best to minimize how often you apply for more credit,” says Lee.

“You just don’t want to do anything that would indicate risk,” explains Dave Jones, retired president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.

Your credit score is an important part of your financial success. As an AOFCU member, you are entitled to a FREE Credit Score Analysis. We can offer a comprehensive list of actions you can do based on your credit report to help you raise your credit score.
Ask for your FREE CSA today!

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