Vehicle Details: Best Cars for Summer

Get ready to hit the road in style
With the warmer months finally here, it’s time to start planning that summer vacation you’ve been dreaming of. Here are a few vehicles that are ideal travel companions whether you’re heading out alone or with the family.

Kia Soul
For the money, you can’t get much better than the newest Kia Soul. Currently residing as the No. 1 ranked Compact by U.S. News & World Report, the Soul was also named to the Best Cars for the Money and Best Cars for Families list. The Soul (MSRP $16,100) is available in Base, + and ! trim levels, and is now also available with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes over 200 hp. You can haul over 60 cubic feet of stuff, and the Soul can also be equipped with leather upholstery, ventilated front seats and a Harman/Kardon® audio system, making it a great choice for road trips.

Ford Mustang
There are few vehicles as iconic as the Ford Mustang, and whether you choose the Coupe (also referred to as Fastback) or Convertible, summer is always better with a sports car. Starting with the 2017 Mustang Fastback (MSRP $25,185), you get a 300 hp V6 with the Shelby GT350 cranking out a tremendous 526 hp. There are four engine choices. For those who want the open-air feeling of a convertible, the Mustang gives you the best of both worlds. “For the money, in the segment, nothing can touch it. Not even excuses,” says Autoblog about the Mustang. Available features include the SYNC infotainment system, Shaker Pro audio system and a navigation system.

Honda Ridgeline
A pickup may normally be associated with winter driving, but the 2017 Ridgeline (MSRP $29,475) isn’t your typical compact pickup. Currently sitting atop the U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best Compact Pickups, the Ridgeline has many features that set it apart from the competition and make it a great summer vehicle. A lockable in-bed trunk with drain plug can be used as a 7.3 cubic foot cooler, while the truck bed audio system and available 150-watt/400-watt trunk-bed outlets allow you to plug in a TV or other electronics, making it the ultimate party vehicle. “No matter how it’s outfitted, the Ridgeline is a no-brainer of a truck: unmatched in smoothness and comfort, and full of innovation well beyond its unibody construction,” Car and Driver writes. “It deserved far more sales than it netted in its inaugural generation. Here’s hoping this one realizes its full potential.”

Chrysler Pacifica
A minivan is a great vehicle for any family road trip and the new Pacifica ensures everyone will be comfortable and happy. It was recently named the Best New Family Car for 2017 by Cars.com. Some of the family-friendly features you’ll find are the available Uconnect Theater with 10.1-inch touchscreens and integrated games, and a 20-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. The Pacifica benefits from the convenience of Stow ’n Go and a class-exclusive Easy Tilt Seating that gives third-row passengers easier access to their seats. The Stow ’n Vac integrated vacuum helps clean up any messes that may happen along the way too. All Pacifica models are efficient, but you can also get a hybrid model—the only one in the segment—with a remarkable 84 MPGe rating.

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The Benefits of Going to a Community College

Why you should consider starting small
Though they tend to have a subpar reputation, community colleges give prospective students a lot of options and offer a ton of advantages. When deciding on higher education, consider what benefits a community college can give you.

Save money
Tuition is traditionally much cheaper at community colleges, and you’ll also save on room and board since, according to The Princeton Review, there is a community college within commuting distance of 90 percent of the U.S. population.

“Community college tuition is usually thousands of dollars cheaper than tuition for private and public four-year universities. This total cost is only a fraction of the cost of a private college, and still thousands of dollars less than a four-year program at a state college,” the Princeton Review noted. “Plus, even with the relatively low rates, nearly a third of community college students receive financial aid.”

Flexibility
While four-year schools typically require you to be a full-time student, U.S. News & World Report found that about 60 percent of community college students attend school part time, thus gaining flexibility to pursue other interests or handle responsibilities. Additionally, community colleges usually have multiple campus locations and offer courses both day and night, as well as online.

“This makes community college a good option for nontraditional students like parents and older students who wish to balance school with family or career obligations,” says U.S. News & World Report’s Travis Mitchell.

Give yourself a boost
At a community college, you have the opportunity to improve your academic record or to get ahead, which will also give your confidence a boost. This can be crucial to your future since, as Jeffery King writes in U.S. News & World Report, a large number of students do poorly their first two years, which can impact their educational and professional future.

Personalized attention
Students can also get a boost from the smaller class sizes offered at community colleges. More one-on-one time with instructors and opportunity to learn at a personalized pace can be a great support to young college students.

Ease of transfer
Many community colleges have convenient admissions agreements with select larger schools in the area, which make the entire transfer process nearly seamless.

Transition from high school
Community colleges are a great stepping stone to make hesitant students more comfortable.

“Attending a community college can be a good way for students to ease into the world of higher education and learn at their own pace,” Mitchell writes. “This is especially true for students who struggled in high school or anyone who’s unsure if they want to make the significant time investment in college.”

More time to think about career path
The first two years of college are typically a period of exploring career paths and passions. Though most students declare majors right out of high school, many will end up changing directions once they get more experience in that particular area. If you don’t feel strongly about any area of study right away, know that community colleges are a great tool for undecided students to fulfill general education requirements, saving you from taking unnecessary classes and wasting time and money.

Make an informed, conscious decision about your college experience, and get the best possible start to your future.

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Does Gender Impact Auto Insurance Rates?

A few facts you need to know

If you drive a vehicle, as most people do, auto insurance is a fact of life. And everyone is continuously looking for ways to cut their rates. But there are some interesting facts that you may not know when it comes to gender and its impact on those rates.

Car insurance rates are based on various factors, including your age; the make, model and year of your vehicle; and both your driving history and driving record. Location is also crucially important, with insurance rates varying greatly by state. But gender can also impact your rates, with women generally paying less than their male counterparts. While this may seem unfair on the surface, when you dig a bit deeper you’ll see there’s a rationale behind this decision as well.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that “Many more men than women die each year in motor vehicle crashes. Men typically drive more miles than women and more often engage in risky driving practices including not using safety belts, driving while impaired by alcohol, and speeding. Crashes involving male drivers often are more severe than those involving female drivers.”

A 2015 study from InsuranceQuotes found that a 20-year-old male will pay just over 20 percent more than a 20-year-old female. “At the end of the day, young men are less cautious, riskier, more distracted drivers,” the study notes.

According to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post, there are three states (Massachusetts, North Carolina and Hawaii) that don’t allow gender to play a role in the setting of insurance rates. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Montana apply the same set of rating factors to both men and women, so there’s no difference in rates in those states either.

There are a few things you can do to alleviate the insurance burden you’re facing; this is especially true for younger drivers who may feel the heaviest crunch of high insurance costs. There are good student discounts of around 20 percent for students who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and take part in a Driver’s Ed course. If you don’t drive a lot, you can also consider a pay-as-you drive policy that factors in how far, how well and how often you drive. Making fewer small claims and shopping around to compare pricing can also keep your premiums low.

There are many things to consider when it comes to auto insurance rates, but the most important thing you can do is speak to your insurance representative and ask about the best ways for you to save. If you do your homework, you may be able to save big.

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Vehicle Details: Top Vehicles That Are Affordable and Cool

A cool ride doesn’t need to break the bank

There are so many choices if you’re looking for a new vehicle that it can be difficult to know where to start. But if your priorities are on coolness and affordability, here are some great options.

Kia Soul – The Soul is frequently awarded for its value and coolness, and the new 2017 model starts at an MSRP of $15,990 while delivering the same charm that has won over many buyers. The Soul continues to find ways to improve, with the newest model adding a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 201 hp and 195 lb/ft of torque through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and estimated fuel ratings up to 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The Soul is easily spotted in a crowd thanks to its unique design, and some of its impressive features include the UVO infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen display, navigation, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. You can also add a Harman Kardon audio system, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and plenty of advanced safety features like the Blind Spot Detection System, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert.

Consumer Guide summarizes it nicely: “The competitively priced Soul is a very compelling mix of personality and practicality.”

Honda Fit – Named to Kelley2017_fit_yellow Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” and currently ranked as the No. 1 subcompact and hatchback by U.S. News & World Report, the Fit has plenty to love. All Fit models have a 130 hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that gets up to 37 mpg highway, but the versatility of the Fit is arguably its biggest strength. A maximum cargo capacity of 52.7 cubic feet is more expected from a small SUV, and clever features like the second row Magic Seat allow buyers to haul larger items. There are also plenty of standard features including Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a multi-angle rearview camera and a five-inch color LCD touchscreen.

Edmunds adds, “If there’s one thing this Honda is known for, after all, it’s the incredible amount of stuff you can fit inside its pint-sized hatchback body. Today’s Fit also has more rear legroom than ever, and it’s got a respectable roster of standard and optional technology too.”

Chevrolet Sonic – Also named tofebruaryfeatured_coolcars Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” the 2017 Sonic is an affordable compact that offers excellent value (a starting MSRP of $15,145), two engines (a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder) and plenty of technology, including a new Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot. Safety is provided by 10 standard airbags and you can also add Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and the new Rear Park Assist.

Autotrader says, “If you’re in the market for an affordable pint-sized champ that won’t make you feel second class for driving it, the Chevrolet Sonic may have your number.”

Other vehicles to consider include the Toyota Yaris iA, Honda Civic, MAZDA3 sedan and hatchback, Nissan Versa Note, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Rio.

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Benefits of Applying for Local Scholarships and Grants

With the rising costs of higher education, apply for as many scholarships as possible

A couple hundred dollarsfebruaryfeatured_localschol2 from a local scholarship may sound like a drop in the bucket when it comes to paying for college tuition and expenses, but the reality is that every dollar counts and several local scholarships can add up to a significant amount of free money for your education.

The reality of large-sum grants
There aren’t many people who can afford to foot the complete bill for their higher education. Yet most only apply to large-sum scholarships and grants to help pay for college, and while those $10,000 and $50,000 nationally awarded grants could make a significant difference in affordability, the truth is they’re difficult to get.

According to an October 2015 article in U.S. News by contributor Jessica Zdunek, largely-funded government agencies and well-known national brands like Ford, Nordstrom’s and Coca-Cola award significant educational scholarships each year, but applying to these means going up against hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants across the country, which significantly reduces your chances of winning such a grant.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for large scholarships, because there’s still the chance you could win, but you should better your odds of financial aid by applying for local grants as well.

The advantages of local scholarships
A first, albeit obvious, advantage of a local scholarship is just that: it’s local to where you live.

According to Zdunek, local scholarships can have application limitations that can actually increase your odds of being awarded. These grants can be limited to people who live in a specific town or region, to a certain GPA minimum, and even to specific extracurricular activities. As long as you meet the criteria listed, you are more likely to win a local award than a national one.

“Scholarship providers like to see people from their community succeed and so they often offer local scholarships available only to residents of a particular geographic region,” says an article on Scholarships.com, a financial aid and scholarship resource site.

Local scholarships are also less likely to be known, so there will be less competition for them than for a national grant.

According to a January 2011 article in U.S. News by Scholarship America, community organizations that offer scholarships typically inform the local high school, either by contacting the guidance counselor or by posting the scholarship in the school’s career center. Instead of competing against the thousands of people searching the internet, applicants compete only against the other students in their school.

Local scholarships can also be awarded on a relationship basis, such as businesses with financial assistance opportunities available to employees and their families. Some businesses will even award scholarships to students if they plan to work for the company after graduation, as this is seen as an investment for the company.

They are also generally easier to follow up on and there’s often a designated person in the business who can answer questions about the scholarship or application requirements directly.

Every dollar counts
“Local scholarships sometimes aren’t as eye catching because they’re just a few hundred dollars. “This can discourage people from applying, but the truth is these small amounts add up,” says Zdunek.

Even if the dollar amount is less than that of a national scholarship, any amount is helpful in offsetting the expense of higher education. For instance, those dollars could go toward books or equipment, or help cover smaller living expenses.

Find out more about our three $2,500 scholarships by visiting our site!

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Is an Electric Vehicle Right for You?

The pros and cons of owning an EV
If you’re considering167427226 a new ride, you owe it to yourself to check out an electric vehicle (EV). Here are some of the pros and cons of owning one.

Electric vehicles have come a long way in a short amount of time and can eliminate the need for gas. With significantly fewer parts than traditional gas-powered engines, EVs require significantly less maintenance too. EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, so they enable you to do your part in helping the environment.

Many people believe that EVs don’t offer the range that they need in terms of miles they can drive on a single charge, but that’s simply not the case. According to the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the average American commutes fewer than 40 miles per day. Most EVs get far more than that.

Here are a few examples.

Nissan Leaf
The Leaf starts at an MSRP of $29,010 and offers 107 miles of range when equipped with the 30-kWh battery. Standard features include Nissan Intelligent Key with push-button start, Bluetooth wireless connectivity and heated front seats. You can also add the NissanConnect system with Navigation, a Bose audio system and leather upholstery. If you download the LEAF EZ-Charge app, you can locate over 20,000 charging stations nationwide so you’ll never be worried about running out of power.

“While it has a limited driving range, in most other respects the Leaf is quite similar to a conventional gas-powered compact hatchback, offering a comfortable interior and surprisingly snappy acceleration (albeit with zero emissions),” says LeftLane News.

Tesla Model S
The Model S has revolutionized the way people look at EVs. It’s not as much of a great luxury EV as it is a great luxury vehicle that happens to be electric, which was designed to be safer and more exhilarating than anything else on the road. It also offers electric all-wheel drive, autonomous driving features and technology that make it the envy of its peers. Driving range starts at up to 218 miles per charge in base form and can go all the way up to 315 miles. This is impressive in its own right, but even more so when you consider the Model S can go from zero to 60 mph in as little as 2.5 seconds.

Kelley Blue Book says that the “Tesla’s Model S for 2016 is a game changer, offering everything a traditional combustion-engine luxury sedan does without the harmful emissions and unpredictable fuel bills. . [T]he Model S can win over the most skeptical enthusiast.”

Mitsubishi i-MiEV
An MSRP of $22,995 gets you into a new 2017 i-MiEV, and after the federal tax credit of $7,500, the i-MiEV comes in at an impressively affordable $15,495. That’s significantly cheaper than popular models like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus. Its 60-mile driving range may not be as impressive as that of the other models mentioned, but it allows for fuel-free driving for less than many traditional gas-powered vehicles cost, making the i-MiEV a great second vehicle for people who don’t tend to travel very far.

Other options: You can find electric versions of popular models, including the Kia Soul, Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Spark and Ford Focus.

The Drawbacks
While there are many advantages of owning an EV, there are still some factors some people can’t overcome. The architecture of the grid is improving, but if you’re looking to travel long distances, many EVs aren’t ideal because of their long charging times and limited ranges. Another factor can be price, which puts a lot of buyers out in the first place. And if you’re looking for variety, many manufacturers don’t even offer an EV in the first place.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, your financial institution is arguably the best place to get financing, so stop by and let us know what you’re looking for, and we’ll do our best to get you the money you need so you have one less thing to worry about.

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5 Easy Ways to Relieve Work Stress

Reduce the stress of your workday with these five simple tips

Whether you workstress_featured in an office, at a restaurant or on a construction site, work is always one of the major causes of stress. Small amounts of stress can sometimes be beneficial because it motivates workers to push themselves harder to reach goals, but too much stress can lead to depression and ultimately burnout if it is not properly dealt with. To avoid these feelings of overwhelming pressure and anxiety, consider trying these simple methods of reducing stress.

Listen to music
Listening to music during stressful times has many positive effects on a person’s health. For starters, it can lower your blood pressure and also reduce certain hormones that are linked to stress. In addition, USA Today reports that listening to music can help improve overall sleep quality, help you eat less and reduce anxiety as much as a massage. In particular, listening to classical music can significantly help relieve stress, but if that genre isn’t your cup of tea, try listening to recorded sounds of nature.

Exercise when you can
Exercising during the workday is an excellent method of relieving stress, according to WebMD. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to visit the gym or jog 10 miles before work. A simple walk around the office is enough to get the blood flowing, which allows mood-boosting endorphins to be released throughout the bloodstream. This can relieve stress and allow you to return to work in a better state of mind. In addition, Health.com reports that by taking a walk outside the office during lunch hours, the vitamin D from the sunlight can actually raise your body’s serotonin levels, which relieves stress. The smells, sounds and visuals also provide welcome distractions that allow people to get out of their own heads.

Talk about your feelings
If the stress of the workday is becoming unbearable, it could be time to pick up the phone to call a trusted friend or family member. According to the Mayo Clinic, sometimes the simple act of talking about stressful feelings can be helpful. In addition, the trusted person on the other end of the line could propose ideas on how to better deal with the situation. Also, once the conversation nears its conclusion, it could be a good idea to express your gratitude to the person on the other end of the phone call. Feelings of gratefulness can activate parts of the brain associated with dopamine, which also helps alleviate stress.

Find an outlet
Whether it’s taking your dog for a walk, writing in your journal or taking a bath each night before going to sleep, it’s important to create a relaxing routine away from the stress associated with work. Some people may argue that they don’t have time for these leisure activities, but setting time aside for fun events can help reduce tension, alleviate stress and avoid burnout. This allows people to be more productive when they do return to work. If you need help coming up with a hobby, WebMD suggests activities such as volunteer work, gardening or caring for pets.

Drink tea instead of coffee
While it’s true that caffeine provides a short-term rush of energy, after the effects of coffee finally wear off, coffee can make work-related stress even worse, according to Health.com. Instead of drinking coffee, try drinking green tea. This tea only has half the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of coffee and contains theanine, which is an amino that reduces agitation because it helps calm the nervous system.

Two of the best ways to reduce work-related stress are to eat right and get a good night’s sleep, but if that still isn’t enough to keep you calm and steady at work, then consider using one or more of the tips from the list above in order to alleviate that unnecessary pressure and anxiety.

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