Rising Interest Rates

Report showing rising interest rate dataInterest rates have been steadily increasing over the last year. So, if you’re thinking of taking out a large loan in the near future, you might be waiting until those rates start going down again.

Here’s why that might not be the best idea.

Interest rates will continue to rise
Experts predict interest rates on financial products will continue increasing throughout the year. It’s not looking great for those who are taking out a short-term loan, either. Experts claim 2018 will see three interest rate hikes, each being 0.25%. If you need to borrow money, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later.

The inflation factor
Unemployment rates are down, but wage growth continues to crawl at an almost nonexistent pace. This, in turn, leads to limited price growth, which keeps the inflation rate stagnant. However, the feds are expecting wage growth to finally kick off in 2018, setting into motion an uptick in inflation and price growth.

The government wants to stay ahead of any surge in inflation. They do so by increasing their interest rates even before there is clear evidence of an inflation peak.

Financial institutions and credit card companies pattern their own interest rates after the government’s rate. Therefore, it’s best to work on aggressively paying down outstanding debt you have before you’re hit with increased interest rates.

Government deficits
Long-term interest rates have been rising since December. This is largely due to the growing government deficit that’s linked to recent tax cuts. The pending two-year budget plan will put the government even deeper into the red, likely causing those rates to climb even higher.

Mortgages
Mortgage interest rates are now at an all-time high; they are currently close to 4.6% and are up more than .20% from a year ago.

For the most part, mortgage rates are linked to bond yields. When bond yields rise, so do mortgage rates. The recent tax overhaul caused investors to favor stocks over bonds, and consequently, mortgage rates have been climbing since September.

Some experts are predicting a turnaround for mortgages in 2018, with the rates possibly dipping below 4% sometime this year. However, all agree that by year’s end, the mortgage rate will settle at 4.5%.

No one can be certain of anything, though, and waiting until the rates drop might prove to be pointless. In fact, you might even end up paying a higher rate for that delay.

The good news
Experts predict a great year for returns on savings, especially CDs. Some claim an average one-year CD will yield a 0.7% return by the end of 2018. So, if you’ve been thinking about opening a share certificate or other savings options, talk with [credit union] to get started.

Volatile economy got you stressed? Call, click or stop by the credit union. We’ll guide you through any financial turn!

Your Turn:
What steps are you taking in the current financial climate? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/interest-rates-forecast.aspx/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/amp/

Advertisements

What Does a 529 College Savings Plan Cover?

 

529 college savings plans are only eligible for spending on certain expenses

Jjar of money labeled collegeThe cost of attendance at American universities is skyrocketing year after year, with a college education now costing up to six figures. 529 college savings plans offer a tax-free way to save money for your education. However, there are a few conditions since the money is tax-free, including what you can spend that money on. Here are a few of the qualified expenses included in the plan.

Tuition and education fees
Of course, the most obvious college expense is tuition. Any of your 529 savings money can be applied toward basic tuition. Many colleges charge mandatory fees such as application fees and additional course fees, and your savings plan can be used on those as well.

Keep in mind that your savings plan can only contribute to mandatory fees. Writer for Washington’s Top News, Nina Mitchell, warns against the use of 529 savings funds for fraternity and sorority membership dues or club and activity fees. “These are considered extracurricular and are not eligible,” says Mitchell.

Textbooks, computers and school supplies
Alongside the rise of tuition prices, textbook prices are also increasing each year. According to Brian Boswell, contributor at Forbes.com, your savings plan can be applied toward textbook rentals and purchases each year. You can also put your savings money toward school supplies, including items like pencils, pens, backpacks and notebooks.

Modern-day education often requires students to have their own personal computers or laptops. With advancing technology, laptops are more expensive than ever. Laptops and desktop computers can be purchased through your 529 savings plan, says Boswell, easing the burden of buying new, up-to-date technology. Printers are also covered under the plan.

Room and board
Your housing costs as a student are covered under your 529 savings plan as well. Whether you live in a campus dorm and are paying for student housing, or if you pay rent off-campus, your savings money can be used for your rent and utilities. While you’re a student, your savings money can also be applied to your dining plan and grocery costs.

However, Boswell explains there is a catch to off-campus living, “To be considered qualified, [off-campus living] costs must be less than or equal to the room and board allowance from the college’s cost of attendance figures. If the total cost living off-campus exceeds the school’s allowance, the student would have to pay the difference using funds from another source.”

If your university charges a fee for internet usage, or if you live off campus and have to purchase an internet package yourself, you can pay those expenses out of your 529 savings plan. Additional software deemed necessary for your education is also covered.

Disability equipment
If you have a disability that requires medical or mobility equipment, you can purchase those items with the money in your 529 savings plan, says Boswell. These items include wheelchairs, prosthetics and transportation costs.

Saving and paying for college tuition alone can be stressful enough, but having to worry about additional school-related expenses just adds to the frustration. Luckily, these expenses are all covered under your 529 savings plan. Consult your tax advisor regarding your personal situation and the possible impacts and benefits of this type of program.

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

Tips for Saving for Your New Car

Hands holdinga jar of moneyIdeas for affording that hot ride you have always wanted
It’s a common situation: your current car is on its last leg and you have your heart set on a new model that will last longer, look better and have more features. Unfortunately, your bank account isn’t on your side and is limiting your options. Instead of disregarding your financial limitations, find ways to overcome them by saving money and shopping wisely so you can eventually afford that dream vehicle.

Determining your financial goal
Before you establish a plan of action, it is vital to fully evaluate your current financial situation and what your goal is; a clear understanding will help you effectively plan how to reach your goal.

Once you identify which vehicle you want, you can estimate how much a down payment would cost. Ronald Montoya of Edmunds suggests that 20% of the total cost of the vehicle should be your down payment (resulting in a lower monthly cost), but that if you cannot comfortably afford that amount, a 10% down payment with GAP insurance mitigates risk while keeping money in your pocket.

Jamie Page Deaton of U.S. News & World Report emphasizes the importance of considering the ongoing price of monthly vehicle costs, such as repayments, insurance and maintenance. Depending on your cost of living and pre-existing debt, these expenses should not exceed 15-36% of your monthly take-home pay. Ensure you have a secure income to afford these monthly costs after you drive the car off the dealership lot.

Saving money on daily expenses
Now that you’ve established a target amount of money to save for both the down payment and monthly fees, you can analyze your current spending habits and find ways to trim your daily expenditures and divert the difference into a savings fund.

Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar outlines dozens of methods for cutting expenses. For instance, consider using public transportation or carpooling to work. Cancel your unnecessary memberships, subscriptions or paid services. Buy bulk, generic, non-perishable items from the grocery store and make your own meals instead of eating out. Other ideas include shopping at thrift stores, selling unused items, consolidating your loans, lowering home thermostats, unplugging electronics and pausing your travel plans.

Getting the best deal on the car
Saving money isn’t just about having enough cash in your bank account; it’s equally imperative to ensure you’re getting a deal on the vehicle you are purchasing. There are methods for knocking some numbers off the sticker price to ensure you are paying the lowest possible amount rather than simply handing over your hard-earned money at the first price presented.

Kerry Hannon of Forbes offers nearly a dozen ways women can save on a new car; all of the methods can be used by men, too. Time your purchase so that you can take advantage of a seasonal sale, a reduced price on last year’s model or a rebate program. Do your research and have a clear idea of what the car’s value is and what competing dealerships in the neighborhood are offering for the same model. Don’t be afraid to negotiate; hold firm on the target price and don’t get drawn into add-ons or upgrades.

Another way to get a better deal on your car is by improving your credit score and thus receiving a better deal on financing. Investigate all your financing options and find the best loan offer that is best for you, whether that’s through your bank, a local credit union or the dealership.

With a solid plan and frugal spending habits, you will eventually be able to afford that new car without putting your finances at risk.

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

Cool Ways to Save Extra Money

A little creativity and thought can save you a lot of money
Couple Saving MoneyThere are many ways to save a little extra money each month, some of which have added benefits beyond financial ones. Have a little fun and get some great additional perks with these five out-of-the-ordinary ways to save extra money.

Forgo cable
With the popularity of Hulu, Netflix and other streaming services, cable isn’t considered a necessity anymore. These streaming services even produce their own shows that you can’t watch anywhere else. Plus, their fees are just a fraction of the average monthly cable bill—services like Apple TV only cost a flat fee up front for the device.

Another way to get media on the cheap is to dust off that old library card. Many local libraries are part of a network from which you can rent a vast selection of DVDs, TV series boxed sets, CDs and books. Even better, it’s absolutely free—as long as you return everything on time.

Socialize cheaply
Instead of going to the movies on date night or heading out for drinks with your pals, look for free activities happening in your area.

“Many cities offer a host of free activities, especially in the summer months. Use social media tools and the web to find listings for community activities and make your date night a little cheaper,” wrote money blogger Nicole Graham on LifeHack.org. “This will also push you to do something new or different, which will broaden your horizons and help you meet new people.”

You can also host your own social events. Save on menu items, tax, tips and parking by hosting a potluck supper. Or organize a clothing swap—it can be a fun, intimate event; and you can all get some free new outfits out of the deal.

Eat at home
Maybe your apartment is too small to host a potluck, but you can still plan your meals ahead and cook at home for yourself in order to pocket some cash.

“Taking a few hours every weekend to grocery shop and meal plan for the week will definitely save you money, as dining out is the No. 1 expense for most households,” said Brittney Castro of CNBC. “By eating at home, you save money that would otherwise be spent on tax and tip—and you usually save calories, too.”

If you do eat out—maybe it’s a special occasion or a reward—at least try to order take-out rather than dining in or getting food delivered. You won’t have to pay the double-fee of tipping the driver AND paying the delivery charge.

Get crafty
Take to Pinterest, beauty blogs and more to find cheap, easy-to-make and oftentimes eco-friendly cleaning or beauty supplies. These online resources can also give you cool ideas for repurposing items around the house or crafting in general, so finding a new hobby out of the deal is yet another advantage.

Charge yourself for bad habits
Quitting vices, such as smoking, can save you a ton of money. But the actual process of kicking the habit can save you some money as well. On LifeHack.org, Graham recommends labeling a jar with your designated bad habit and placing a certain denomination of money in the jar every time you find yourself partaking in said bad habit.

As if watching exclusive media content, hanging with friends, helping the planet or bettering yourself could get any better—with these tips, you can save money while you’re at it!

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

Best Ways to Save for Your Mortgage Down Payment

Four simple methods to get the ball rolling on your down payment savings
Buying a home is ajanuaryfeatured_saveforhome huge step in life and begins with a huge hurdle: the down payment. Fortunately, by starting early and thinking things through, you can get a solid jump on saving. Here are some easy ideas to get you started.

Automate Your Savings
At your usual financial institution, open a savings account specifically designated for your down payment/mortgage. Not only will this allow you to conveniently transfer funds from one account to the other, it will also allow you to automate transfers or directly deposit part of your paycheck into the specified account.

Make a Budget
Create a spreadsheet that lists all of your monthly expenses and monthly net income. Not only will this tell you how much you can put into savings, it can also help you discern what monthly mortgage payment you can afford. If the buffer between expenses and income is already too small, this is an early red flag that you will have to start doing some things differently to afford your mortgage.

“Given that income and expenses are closely matched in many households, the only way to get ahead is to bring in more money or change your spending habits (meaning spend less) and avidly look for new savings sources,” says Peter Miller, The Simple Dollar contributor.

Invest Your Funds
If you are looking to buy a house within the year, Kathryn Vassel of CNN Money recommends keeping your money liquid; but if your plans are more long-term, it is a good opportunity to invest in order to boost savings. If you are looking at a 10-year time frame, stocks could be a good option for you, Vassel writes. If you think you’ll buy a house in five to seven years, consider investing in bonds: 50 percent in longer-term bond funds or individual bonds and 40 percent in short-term bonds that mature in one to three years, plus 10 percent in cash. Finally, try higher-interest CDs if you are still two to four years from buying a home.

Research Home-Buying Programs
One of the first steps toward saving for a mortgage is setting a goal. A general rule of thumb for the down payment is 20 percent of the home’s selling price, but many available government programs also offer lower down payments, down payment loans or grants, or housing discounts. For lower down payments, look into GSE loans or loans through the FHA, VA or USDA.

Whether you choose one of these savings methods or all of them, they will help you come up with the down payment for the home you’ve always wanted.

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

The Power of Compound Interest

Why it really pays to invest early in a retirement account
Money in a savingsjanuaryfeatured_compoundinterest or retirement account grows over time as it earns interest. But the interest rate isn’t the only factor that determines how much it grows; compounding interest helps your funds grow faster because it lets you earn interest on the money you deposit plus previously earned interest.

Compounding interest gives young investors great power to save for retirement, even if they don’t currently have much to save.

People in their 20s and 30s who are working to build their careers are often tempted to put off investing in retirement for a time when they are more established financially. By doing so, however, they miss out on the big advantage they have over older, wealthier savers: time.

“If you invested $10,000 in a mutual fund and the fund earned a 7% return for the year, you’d gain $700,” according to NerdWallet. “Over the years, that money can really add up: If you kept that money in a retirement account over 30 years and earned that average 7% return, for example, your $10,000 would grow to more than $76,000.”

To test out the power of compound interest for yourself, try the Compound Interest Calculator from NerdWallet. It can show you exactly how far your money could go if you started saving today. Just plug in hypothetical savings amounts at https://www.nerdwallet.com/banking/calculator/compound-interest-calculator.

The earlier you start investing, the more time your money has to compound, and when you do the calculations, it becomes clear that saving a little bit of each paycheck today can add up to a much bigger sum at age 65 than if you wait a few decades to start saving, even if you can afford to save more each month when you’re older. The bottom line is that to truly take advantage of the power of compound interest, you need to start saving as early as possible, and the advantage you gain by doing so cannot be overstated.

Business Insider calculated how much you would need to save each month to reach $1 million by age 65 at a 6 percent return rate, and the results are astounding. If you start saving at age 20, you only need to invest $361.04 each month, while starting at age 30makes the required monthly savings nearly double to $698.41. If you wait until you are 50, you need to put away $3,421.46 each month to end up with the same amount at age 65.

You can see a chart that illustrates the calculated monthly savings required for each age group at http://www.businessinsider.com/compound-interest-monthly-investment-2014-3/#.U6xcEI1dWVh.

“When you start saving outweighs how much you save,” says Business Insider contributor Libby Kane. “Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and Roth IRAs aren’t just savings accounts-they’re actively invested, and therefore have the potential to make the most of this benefit.”

If you’ve been inspired by the mathematical magic of compound interest, harness that motivation by talking to your financial institution about opening up a retirement account or by committing to making regular contributions to your existing savings and retirement accounts.

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

Investing vs. Paying Off Debt

Deciding factors include your financial resources and goals

Some people willinvestvsdebt_featured decide to pay off all their debts before ever investing money, while others will say it’s better to carry livable debt and be able to grow your savings over time. There are pros and cons to either option, depending on your financial situation.

What to consider first
According to an October 2014 article in U.S. News Money by contributor Joanne Cleaver, paying off debt first means losing potential compound interest earned on any investments you would have made during that time. On the other hand, investing first means having to manage your debt and pay more in interest over time. And if you’ve invested your money, you likely have fewer funds to make payments toward your debt.

Cleaver says that understanding your financial situation and what you can handle is the largest determinant. She suggests you find your tipping point for affordability by looking at the interest rates of your loans and calculating how much it will cost you on a monthly basis to maintain the debt. If the number doesn’t fall within your affordability parameters, consider paying off the debt before doing any investing.

To do this, Paul Heising, a financial adviser with California-based investment firm Smarter Decisions, recommends “[organizing] consumer debt accounts according to their interest rates so you can see which are costing you the most,” and to “pay back loans with the higher interest rates first, especially if those rates are over 10 percent annually.”

Advantages of doing both
Other experts recommend striking a balance of paying off your debt and investing, but only with certain, less-risky investments at first. Joshua Kennon, author of Investing for Beginners, suggested such a balance in a January 2016 article on the financial resource website TheBalance.com.

According to Kennon, you should fund any workplace retirement accounts, like a 401(k), and start an emergency fund using an FDIC-insured institution while paying down any high-interest rate loans, like student loans and credit cards. Then, he advises to circle back to investing more money into such savings vehicles as an IRA or Roth IRA, and begin building assets in mutual fund and brokerage accounts.

He listed three main points in his reasoning:

  1. “You minimize your tax bill, both from earned income and on investment income, which means more money in your own pocket.”
  2. “You create significant bankruptcy protection for your retirement assets. Your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as 401(k), has unlimited bankruptcy protection under the current rules, while your Roth IRA has $1,245,475 in bankruptcy protection as of 2015.”
  3. Reducing debt over time allows you to build up while you pay down, so that when you are debt-free you suddenly have a major stream of cash to do with what you want.

An article by CFP Nick Holeman for investment management firm Betterment suggested a similar plan to pay off debt while investing in certain funds.

Holeman advised making at least the minimum payment on your bills, on time, while taking advantage of any employer retirement savings as you pay off major debt. Then you can build your emergency fund and finally invest further for retirement and savings.

Contributing to your company 401(k), even with debt, is important, said Holeman. Especially if your employer has a match contribution, making your contribution maximum to earn the match can yield a higher return on your investment than can many other investment alternatives.

“If you have debt that’s costing you over five percent in fees, pay it off as fast as you can. Start with the highest-interest debt first,” Holeman suggested.

In the end, the decision between off all your debts first, investing all your money first or balancing a plan of both depends on your financial risk-taking and resources.

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