Vehicle Details: Best Cars for Younger Drivers

You don’t have to settle
If you’re looking forYoungCars_Featured a vehicle for younger drivers, there are plenty of excellent models that are not only affordable, but also among the best values in the entire automotive industry.

Honda Fit
The 2016 Honda Fit starts at an MSRP of $15,890, a bargain considering it was named both “Best Subcompact Car for the Money” and “Best Hatchback for the Money” by U.S. News & World Report. A 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 130 horsepower and 114 pounds/foot of torque, and when equipped with the available Continuously Variable Transmission, you can expect up to 33 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. Features like the Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ Body Structure, Vehicle Stability Assist and SmartVent® front-side airbags helped the Fit achieve a Five-Star Overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Nobody has yet matched the Fit’s incredible versatility at this price, and placed it atop a chassis that offers a modicum of fun,” notes Car and Driver.

MAZDA3
Available in both sedan and five-door variants, the MAZDA3 has quickly become a favorite of automotive media and consumers alike, and it happens to be the most affordable vehicle to make Car and Driver’s 10Best list, with a starting MSRP of $17,845 for the sedan. There are two fuel-efficient SKYACTIV engines with fuel estimates rated up to 30 mpg city and 41 mpg highway, and a slew of available features that help keep you safe, including a Technology Package that bundles a Lane Departure Warning System, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Forward Obstruction Warning, High Beam Control and Smart City Brake Support. Both the sedan and the five-door have been named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Anyone who thinks a compact car can’t be stylish, fuel-efficient, value-oriented, technologically advanced and a hoot to drive hasn’t met the Mazda3. Mazda’s small sedan and hatchback are all those things and more,” adds Kelley Blue Book.

Chevrolet Sonic
The Sonic is one of the more popular models in the Chevrolet stable among younger buyers. In fact, according to Chevrolet, it’s the company’s top vehicle for first-time buyers, with over 20 percent of Sonic buyers under age 35. And nearly 30 percent are trading in non-GM vehicles. A new 2017 model is on its way, with the 2016 model already an excellent bargain starting at $14,345.

There are two Ecotec four-cylinder engines that help the Sonic achieve fuel economy of up to 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. And as in all Chevrolet models, the OnStar connectivity suite is available with 4G LTE Wi-Fi so you can stay connected.

“The Sonic is Chevrolet’s entry into the popular subcompact segment. Available as both a sedan and a hatchback, it offers a refined cabin and surprisingly good driving dynamics,” says Left Lane News.

Kia Soul
The Soul starts at an MSRP of $15,900 and is a great vehicle if you’re looking to stand out, having recently been named one of the “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” according to Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com, on top of its spot on the “Best Compact Car for Families” list from U.S. News & World Report. It was also a winner at the 12th annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year.

The Soul is available in three trim levels (Base, + and !), and power comes from either a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine or a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 164 horsepower and up to 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. All Soul models come standard with a 10-year/100,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warranty, among the best in the industry.

“Proving once and for all that it’s hip to be square, the Kia Soul stands out from other compacts with a unique look that manages to be both boxy and extremely funky. The affordably priced, hamster-endorsed hatchback also delivers a roomy cabin, ample standard features and numerous optional extras, making it an appealing blend of style and substance,” says Left Lane News.

There are plenty of great choices available for young drivers, but when you’re looking for financing, the best option is to stop by and see us.

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

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Should You Keep Renting?

How to determine when to stop renting and buy a home
If you are planning onRentVBuy_Featured moving in the near future, you are likely wondering about the comparative benefits of renting and buying.

Here are a few things that you should consider when trying to determine if you should keep renting — or say “sayonara” to your landlord and purchase your own property.

Benefits of buying
If you are a renter, your landlord could decide to sell the property, raise your rent or change the terms of your lease at the time of renewal. Buying a home, on the other hand, gives you stability in knowing that no unexpected moving situations will be forced on you in the future.

In addition to stability, you also gain a sense of autonomy as a homeowner. You don’t have to ask permission to decorate or renovate, so you can create an atmosphere that matches your style and personality. After years of renting, many people become tired of not having the freedom to decorate as they please, which can be incentive enough to consider buying. Furthermore, you can change the landscaping to suit your taste and needs, even adding a vegetable garden to improve your recipes and reduce your food budget.

In addition to these personal and emotional advantages, there are many financial benefits to buying. New homeowners are often surprised by the size of the tax benefits they receive.

“As a homeowner, you are able to deduct many home-related expenses,” states Taylor Schulte, CFP®, founder and CEO of Define Financial, in an article on Kiplinger.com. “And, unless you owe more than $1 million, all the interest you pay in your mortgage payment is tax-deductible.”

You also build equity as a homeowner as you pay down your mortgage, and paying it off completely is a great way to keep costs reasonable in retirement. Building equity gives you the option to seek a reverse mortgage in the future and can help you get a better loan rate on a personal loan, should you need one for renovations, starting a business or purchasing a car.

Benefits of renting
While buying gives you stability, renting gives you flexibility. If you are considering changing careers, flexibility can allow you to seize the perfect opportunity, without having to wait to sell your home if the commute is too long. Renters can also easily move to a less expensive area or property if they need to cut costs while job searching or starting a business.

While a monthly mortgage payment may be comparable to or less than what you would pay to rent, homeowners quickly discover that purchasing a home includes many more costs and fees, such as those associated with obtaining a mortgage and working with a realtor.

There are also ongoing costs, including property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and maintenance costs associated with the landscape and physical property. A renter is also not likely to be held responsible for unexpected expenses such as broken pipes, roof repairs, damaged driveways and gutter maintenance, just to name a few.

Another financial benefit of renting is the ability to build credit. So if you aren’t able to qualify for the interest rate you desire, continuing to rent is a great option.

“While renting doesn’t boost credit the same way owning a home often can, creating a history of on-time rental payments can, in some cases, help build your credit to qualify for a mortgage down the road,” states Schulte. “This history can be created when (and if) your landlord reports your payment data to the credit agencies.”

Other considerations
“The arguments in favor of ownership are persuasive, particularly for people who expect to stay in place for at least five to seven years but probably more,” according to Tara Siegel Bernard in a 2016 article for the New York Times. “A mortgage acts like a forced savings plan, even if you’re paying the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest for the privilege of building equity.”

This point was illustrated in a 2014 study from HelloWallet, a unit of Morningstar. It created a financial model for the housing markets of 20 major cities in the United States, projecting how hypothetical families with moderate income levels would fare financially if they bought a house versus if they rented.

“The study projects that median-income families, or those who earn about $50,000, will often end up with more net wealth if they rent versus own over the 10 years from 2013 to 2022,” states Siegel Bernard. “But any number of variables can quickly shift that calculus, including the price of the home relative to the rent, whether the family is affluent enough to benefit from tax savings, and the time spent in the home.”

If you are still stumped, talking to someone at your financial institution can help you assess what type of mortgage you could currently qualify for and what type of home you can expect to find with that mortgage. Comparing that with your current renting situation may help tip the scales in one direction or the other.

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

Which Loans Should You Pay Down First?

Philosophies for paying off your debt
Is there a right or wrongDebtPayoff_Featured way to pay down your loans? The answer is not cut and dried; it depends on your financial and personal goals and objectives.

Here are two main theories about the order in which you should pay off loans, along with further advice about each of those plans.

Theory No. 1: Highest interest rate first
The first school of thought is to pay off debts by interest rate from highest to lowest. The theory behind this is that it will save you the most money in the long run. This plan makes sense because debt with high interest is costing you much more money over time. The problem with this strategy is this: You may have more control over your finances, but you won’t feel as though you do.

Be aware — if your highest-interest loan is also your largest debt, it will take a while to pay it off. It may not look or feel as though you are making any progress for quite some time. This lack of satisfaction — not feeling that the debt is well on track to be paid in full — could make it more difficult to stay focused on your goal of paying off debt. That leads to the second intellectual outlook.

Theory No. 2: Smaller debts first
If you are into immediate gratification, this is the plan for you.

“You can clear up a lot of smaller monthly payments and quickly apply those to the extra money you are paying off on your debt snowball,” explains money management expert Miriam Caldwell, author of the online blog “Money in Your 20s.”

The downside here is that you could miss out on some important tax benefits of having big loans paid down, and you could end up paying a lot more interest in the end (see reasoning behind Theory No.1) by putting high-interest loans last in order of importance.

So what’s an embattled debt-payer to do?

Balance your approach
You may choose to intertwine the two methods. Start by knocking out a few of your small loans in the first couple of months, and then work on larger-interest debt before going back to paying on small loans again. Another way to balance out your methodology is to pay smaller loans off more quickly if their interest rates are generally within a percentage point or two, because that will give you more power (i.e., money) to pay off the larger loans.

“You may want to put the loans that save you on your taxes at the end of your debt payment plan. This would be your student loan, home equity loan or second mortgage,” suggests Caldwell. “These debts may also have lower interest rates. This lets you continue to deduct the interest from your taxes each year.”

She adds that you should never hold on to debt simply for tax purposes.

Stick to the plan
Eventually, the minimum payments may start to go down on debts such as credit cards. As tempting as it may be to use that extra money — those funds that you once had to put toward loan payments — on frivolous personal items, you must resist the urge. Use that extra money as an additional payment on your loans, using the same plan you started with initially to designate priority. This will help cut down your debt even more.

It may be hard to stay motivated, but you can do it! Create a chart so you can visually track your progress, or reward yourself at certain milestones with a small dinner out or a movie date. No matter what, remember that as long as you keep moving forward with a solid plan, progress is being made.

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

The Risks of Using Someone Else’s Wi-Fi

Protecting you and your money from hackers
The internet has made doingWiFiSeucure_Featured many things much easier. It provides instant gratification for shopping for that perfect outfit or new gadget, and banking and bill payment services are just a click away.

But the internet also has made it much easier for cyber criminals to get your personal information.

The dangers of using a public or unsecure Wi-Fi connection
When you connect to an unfamiliar Wi-Fi network, including a public Wi-Fi network at your favorite coffee shop, restaurant or store, you’re opening the door for hackers and cyber criminals to steal your personal and confidential information. They can impersonate you, steal your money or even sell your information on the cyber black market to a host of people who could do the same. How can they do this?

In a July 2014 article in Forbes, Vice President of Check Point Software Technologies Bari Abdul highlights common ways a hacker can get into your computer when you’re using a public Wi-Fi or someone’s unprotected Wi-Fi network.

Scenario No. 1: Rogue/evil twin Wi-Fi
“A hacker creates a hotspot named Hotel Wi-Fi in a hotel lobby using a USB antenna and laptop. You connect to it and log in to your email or other account,” says Abdul. “When [you] log in, hackers listen for your passwords and other sensitive information. They can also use these networks to get you to download malware.”

And you’re none the wiser, because most hotels offer free Wi-Fi to their guests, and why would something so official-looking be fake?

Scenario No. 2: Man-in-the-middle attacks
Man-in-the-middle attacks happen when a hacker intercepts communication between two computers while one is connected to an unsecure network, like public Wi-Fi.

“A common man-in-the-middle attack is when a third party or ‘middle person’ eavesdrops as you exchange bank account or credit card information. Traveling and forgot to set up a payment? Be aware that online shopping interactions or other financial transactions are highly susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks,” reports Abdul.

Other common ways you could unknowingly allow a hacker access to your devices include using smartphones that automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi (including rogue Wi-Fi networks posing as legitimate ones) and even maintaining a home or office network that’s not up-to-date in its firewall and security software. A hacker will wait until you use the device on an unprotected connection and then eavesdrop on everything you type, looking for passwords and sensitive banking or credit card information.

Tips to protect you from becoming a victim of cybercrime
Kaspersky Labs, a renowned global cybersecurity company with a North American base in Massachusetts, shares tips on its website about how to protect yourself while banking or shopping online with an unfamiliar Wi-Fi connection.

  • Treat every unknown Wi-Fi connection with suspicion. If you’re in a retail store, talking with an employee before connecting.
  • Use your smartphone as a hotspot instead of connecting to any Wi-Fi networks, and turn off the capability in your settings to automatically connect to available Wi-Fi without permission.
  • Because links are often infected with Trojans or other malware viruses, always type in the full URL to the online bank or store instead of clicking a link.
  • Beware of fake messages from your bank asking for personal information. A legitimate financial institution will not ask you to send sensitive information via email or a pop-up window; nor will it ask you to visit its site for authorization.
  • “When you’re visiting a web page that needs you to enter confidential data, carefully check that the address of the page that’s shown on the browser corresponds with the page that you were intending to access,” says Kaspersky Labs. “If the URL is made up of a random selection of letters and numbers — or it looks suspicious — do not input any information.”
  • Before entering any sensitive information, check that the URL in your browser has a padlock icon and starts with “https” — not “http” — to make sure the connection’s encrypted.

If you have any questions on other measures to take to protect yourself from the dangers of using someone else’s Wi-Fi for online banking, bill paying or shopping, let us know and we’ll be happy to help.

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