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/

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Mobile Banking – 4 Ways To Stay On Top Of Your Finances While On The Go

Closeup of person's thumb over mobile banking app displayed on mobile deviceMost people have a checklist they go through before they leave the house. Is the stove turned off? Are the doors locked? Do I have my wallet, my keys and my cellphone? The only thing that has changed about that process in the last few years has been the addition of that last item on the list.

Today, 92% of Americans have cellphones and 68% of them have smartphones. This is a remarkable change from just a few years ago. More than half of the people you see every day are carrying a computer that dwarfs the most powerful computing technology that was available a decade ago. It’s also connected to all of the world’s information, literally at our fingertips. What do we use it for? Drawing mustaches on our selfies and tossing wingless birds at shoddily made pig housing.

If you’d like to use your smartphone for more sophisticated purposes, plus add a ton of convenience and peace of mind to your life, consider mobile banking. With a couple of taps, you can access a whole suite of financial information. Let’s look at four scenarios where mobile banking can save you some time … and even some money.

1.) Say goodbye to security woes
Despite all of the data breaches that have been in the public eye over the past few years, no one has figured out how to compromise mobile devices as a platform. Security leaks have affected PCs, Macs and point of sale terminals, but no widespread security vulnerability has compromised mobile banking. Despite the fear, mobile banking is actually a fundamentally secure platform.

The first reason for this is the plurality of platforms. You and your neighbor may not be able to share cellphone chargers, much less apps or other experiences. This diversity makes it difficult for a single vulnerability to affect many users. Since there’s less possibility of large scale attacks, hackers have very little incentive to dedicate time toward trying to compromise mobile platforms.

The second reason for this is the tight control placed on mobile devices. Because these devices have to send regular usage information back to your mobile provider, they tend to be far less prone to modification. There’s just not as much you can do to an iPhone or an Android as you can to a PC. While some users might override those protections, such modifications are not widespread enough to justify attempted infiltration.

Mobile banking is secure and safe. Data transmitted from your cellphone to your provider is heavily encrypted. If you lose your phone, it can be remotely deactivated and passwords usually aren’t stored on the device.

2.) You can check your balance any time
Rather than waiting for your statement every month or booting up that slow PC for checking your account balances online, you can view transactions while waiting for a bus or in line at a restaurant. You can stay vigilant against illegal account access any time you’ve got your phone and a spare few seconds.

The convenience of mobile banking can also keep you from making costly mistakes. If you know funds may be running tight, check your account balance while in the checkout line to make sure you can cover the cost of your purchases. You can see if your monthly rent check has been withdrawn from your account to avoid the costly fees associated with overdrafting. It’s easier than ever to keep track of your finances.

You can also help to prevent errors with mobile banking. Accidental overpayment, duplicate payments and other errors are a regrettable reality of the modern high-speed economy. By regularly checking your account statement, you can catch these pesky problems before they turn into big issues.

3.) It’s where you’ll find the next big thing
Mobile payments and mobile check depositing are becoming more widely available and are already being used in many places. As technology gets better, these functions will become cheaper, faster and even more widespread. Getting involved in mobile banking on the ground floor will help you stay up to speed with this rapidly evolving world.

Imagine getting turn-by-turn walking directions to your nearest ATM. You could get alerts when new houses are listed for sale along your daily commute. You might pay for your breakfast by signing a receipt on your phone. These and other changes are coming and they are only the beginning. If mobile banking doesn’t do something you need, wait six months. Someone will probably find an app for that.

4.) 24-hour-a-day instant access
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because you can’t remember if you paid your electric bill? Ever have a tiny freakout on the bus because you suspect someone may have accessed your account? Are money worries preventing you from enjoying your vacation? If you have these concerns and are nowhere near your computer, you could just suffer through them.

As an alternative, though, you could use a mobile app to check your balance and transaction history. See if your monthly bills have cleared. Make sure your balance is safe. You can do all of this any time you’ve got your phone, day or night.

Mobile banking won’t replace traditional, face-to-face interaction. There will always be a place in the credit union service standards for the human interaction. What mobile banking apps offer is a wonderful supplement to those high-quality services. Space-age convenience, top-level security, and blissful peace of mind are all available from your pocket, anywhere in the world.

Sources:

http://mauconline.net/2013/03/07/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-mobile-banking/

http://marketingland.com/pew-61-percent-in-us-now-have-smartphones-46966

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/5-reasons-to-use-mobile-banking-1.aspx

Five Things That Will Help Your Future

Group of multi-gender, multi-ethnic students studying together.Your primary reason for attending college is to jump start your career, of course. But, did you know there are many other things you can do now to help secure your future?

Here are just 5 things you can do today that will improve your after-college life:

1. Be careful with your internet presence
You aren’t thinking about terms like “personal brand” just yet, but you’ll be applying for that first after-college job in just a few short years. In our digital age, employers tend to check out prospective employees’ internet presences to get a feel for what kind of person they might be hiring. Be careful to cultivate the online image you’d be comfortable sharing with your future boss.

2. Master the art of negotiating
Whether you’re a skilled debater or love to keep a low profile, you need to learn how to negotiate to earn your true worth. And you’ll need to know how to do that as soon as you’re applying for your very first real job.

Master the art of negotiating now by practicing on your friends whenever you disagree on something. You can find lots of tips and techniques online; research and then try them. See what works and what will never fly. By the time you graduate, you’ll be equipped to politely and firmly negotiate for a better salary, an improved benefits package and more!

3. Stick to a budget
Sure, you’ve got a mountain of student debt to pay off, but that doesn’t mean you should let your budget go to pot. Learn how to stick to a spending plan now, while life is still relatively cheap. Better yet, see if you can cut down on your monthly spending and start paying back your student loan before you’ve graduated!

If you need help managing your money, be sure to call, click, or stop by [credit union] today for free financial advice.

4. Sign up for a class that’s not related to your major
Take the time to explore educational pursuits that are not directly related to your chosen major. It’s always a good idea to broaden your knowledge base, and you never know which class or area of study can be super-handy at a later time. Consider subjects like finances, computer science and accounting, all of which will likely be useful to you one day.

5. Develop healthy habits
Now that you’re living on your own and responsible for your daily schedule, take the time and effort to establish healthy habits on every level. Find a healthful diet that you can stick to, adapt a responsible sleeping pattern and establish a study and work routine that shows maturity, perseverance and forethought. It might be more fun to let loose for another few years, but developing healthy habits now shows that you’re growing up and ready to join the world of adults.

Remember: The choices you make today will help to ensure your brighter tomorrow.

Your Turn:
How do you plan for your future today? Share your own best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/best-advice-college-students-never-hear-2017-5

https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/know-yourself/5-ways-to-find-career-ideas

How to Prepare for Your Job Interviews

Young black woman shaking hands with her new employerNothing beats the excitement and novelty of your very first real job. With your long-awaited degree in hand, the world is at your fingertips! You can do it all – and you will. But first, you need to land that perfect job. For that to happen, you’ll need to get through an interview looking poised, polished and professional.

Whether,you’re preparing for your first real job or you’re just looking for part-time work to make some headway on your student loans, we’ve got you covered. Check out our handy list of interview tips and get ready to make your best impression!

Research – Find out all you can about your prospective workplace. Showing that you’re familiar with the company, its goals and its successes will impress your interviewer and help you display a keen interest in the company.

Practice – Having an interviewer’s question leaving you tongue-tied is the stuff that interview nightmares are made of. Role-play with a friend before the meeting, having them ask you typical interview questions, like “What can you bring to the company?” and “Can you list some of your strongest skills?”

This way, you’ll be prepared for the questions the interviewer will throw at you during the real thing.

Be professional – Dress to impress. You want to look respectable and mature, so look the part. You don’t need to wear a suit unless the particular workplace calls for one, but you can look sharp and professional in a buttoned, collared shirt, or a nicer blouse and slacks.

Also, be sure to show up at least 10 minutes early. Prepare everything you’ll need the night before so you’re not frantically searching for your keys a half-hour before you’re supposed to meet with the big boss. Make sure you know how to drive to the office without getting lost. If it’s in an unfamiliar part of town, input the address into Waze or another GPS app the day before the interview and do a practice run to be sure you’ve got it down pat.

Finally, use respectable language only, keeping away from slang, vague, meaningless words like “um” or “whatever,” and, of course, all swear words.

Act confident – This is where your latent acting skills come into play. You may be quaking at the knees, but you’ll need to present yourself as a confident, assured employee. Your handshake should be firm. Look the interviewer in the eye. Answer questions in a strong, certain voice. Employers want to see strength and poise; show them you’ve got it!

Exit with grace – No matter how the interview played out, be sure to leave a good lasting impression. Smile, thank the interviewer for their time, and mention what a pleasure it was to meet them.

Follow-up – Later that day, send the interviewer a quick email thanking them again for their time, being sure to sign your name. This way, they’ll remember you from among the dozens of potential employees they may have met that day.

Now get out there and land that dream job!

Your Turn:
How do you prepare for job interviews? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/search?q=preparing+for+first+interview&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=preparing+for+first+interview&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.7064j0j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/first-job-interview-questions-answers

https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/interview/practice

Ransomware And Mobile Devices

Three bad guys planning ransom demandsOne moment, you’re surfing the internet. A minute later, a pop-up shows your files have been taken hostage and that you’re required to pay a $300 ransom to have them released back to you. You stare at the screen in disbelief. How is this possible, especially considering you are on your mobile device?

Ransomware – malware that accesses your computer system and blocks access to your files until a ransom is paid to restore access all while stealing your payment information – has been becoming more prevalent among PC users. While these attacks typically focused solely on PCs, they are now adapting to include mobile devices. That’s right, the very same mobile devices you use to access your credit union accounts for checking balances, transfer funds and make payments.

An example of a Russian-based mobile device ransomware is called “Svpeng.” It focuses on tactics for infecting mobile phones and mobile banking applications. It infects the device with a phishing window when the application is opened. This overlay attack is used to steal online banking information as the malware pretends to be the application’s login screen. The user enters login and password information, which is then stolen by the hackers. Once they have access to the account, they can control the account. Svpeng also phishes through Google Play if that is on the mobile device.

This tactic also involves SMS messages being sent to two Russian banks to determine if the phone number of the device is connected to any payment cards. If a card is indeed connected to a number, the hackers use commands through the device to transfer the victim’s money into their own accounts. While Svpeng has currently been seen only in Russia, it is expected to expand into other countries; one of the features of the ransomware checks the mobile device’s language settings to determine the appropriate language to use for the attack.

As time goes on, other PC-based ransomware programs may also be adapted for mobile devices, or more ransomware programs that are specifically designed for mobile devices may be created. Hackers are always looking for ways to evolve their tactics in hopes of stealing more information and making immediate profits. Svpeng, for example, had 50 modifications to its malware within a three-month period.

How does this type of malware get onto a PC or a mobile device? It could be through a “drive-by download” where malicious software is downloaded without the user even knowing about it. This happens as the user surfs the internet without a care, yet comes across a compromised webpage or clicks to a website through an HTML-based email. It could have been downloaded through a phishing email, which appears to be from a credit union, yet is a fake email linking to a compromised webpage. The ransomware could also come through an email attachment that is malicious.

After the infection occurs on the mobile device or PC, the overlay or ransomware tactics are used as was described with Svpeng. That way the hackers can either directly steal the login and password information when the credit union account is accessed, or the user is blackmailed by a direct ransomware attack to send money to unlock the mobile device.

Many of the ways ransomware can be prevented from infecting a PC are the same for prevention on a mobile device. Make sure data on a mobile device is regularly backed up. This will help with recovering information if the device is hijacked. Make sure an antivirus program is running on the mobile device. Follow safe web browsing habits. Block suspicious emails.

Don’t download data or apps from questionable sources. Don’t “jailbreak” a device where built-in controls and security features are overridden; this removes an additional layer of protection against ransomware attacks.

If you think your mobile device has become a victim of ransomware, you can try to remove it by running a virus scan through mobile antivirus software. Don’t pay any ransom because it won’t guarantee the release of your data and you are giving additional payment information to the hackers. If none of these work, talk with your mobile device or cellular provider or their tech support. Of course, notify your credit union to monitor your accounts for any potentially fraudulent activity.

Protecting Yourself Against Card Cracking Scams

Person in front of screen selecting fraud  prevention iconIn a recent scam targeting cash-strapped millennials, fraudsters are once again cashing in on people’s naivety and goodwill. Only this time they’re using social media to make it happen.

What makes the scam especially cruel is that fraudsters specifically look for victims who are short on funds, such as students with large loans hanging over their heads, struggling single parents or young professionals searching for a job. People who are desperate for cash also prove to be desperate enough to believe almost anything that will help them earn them a quick buck. Unfortunately, this vulnerability, coupled with the broad reach and easy plundering that scammers are granted by using social media, has made card cracking more successful in luring victims than many other scams.

Card cracking scams start with an innocent-looking social media post that appears like the dozens you scroll through every day. The post may show up on the victim’s Twitter feed, Facebook page or on Instagram, and it will always showcase some form of quick cash. It might be an easy-to-win contest with a huge reward for the winner. It can be a dream job that will instantly be yours – as soon as you follow the instructions. It may even be a complete giveaway, such as a cash bonus or a gift card that you’ll be granted just for sharing some information. If you click on the embedded link, you’ll be asked for your checking account information, your PIN or your online banking credentials.

Once the scammers have this information, they can do any number of things with their prize, from withdrawing large sums of cash from your account to using your debit card number for a massive shopping spree. They may even help themselves to funds you have in your account, such as a paycheck or student loan.

In another iteration of card cracking, scammers will tug on victims’ heartstrings, claiming their personal accounts are frozen and they have no access to money. They’ll ask the victim to allow them to access the victim’s account for simple transactions such as depositing checks. Once the checks are in, the scammer will cash in on the amount, and a few days later, when the check bounces, the scammer will be long gone. This variation is sometimes played out in person, on college campuses.

In yet a third scheme, card crackers promise victims a cut of fraudulent funds if the victim allows them to use their account. Victims often rationalize this crime by assuring themselves that they’re not actually playing a part in the fraud. Of course, they will still be held accountable when the scammers are busted.

Sadly, falling victim to a scam can be especially harmful for a millennial who is just beginning to build their credit history.

Don’t be the next victim. Here’s how to protect yourself from card cracking:

1.) Never share personal information with a stranger
You’ve heard it a thousand times, but this rule cannot be overstated. Never share sensitive information with a correspondent whose identity you can not verify with absolute certainty. You wouldn’t think of giving your checking account number to a solicitor you met on the street; why would you share it with a stranger online?

Of course, victims of card cracking and similar schemes believe the scammers are legitimate. That’s why it’s important to authenticate a web address, company or offer by asking for a street address or phone number. Additionally, by educating yourself about these scams, you’ll be able to spot one immediately.

2.) When it’s too good to be true, it usually is
Remembering this rule of thumb will go a long way toward helping you recognize scammers. Free or easy money exists only in fairy tales. Don’t believe the Facebook post that promises you’ll land that dream job you’ve been searching for if you only hand over your account passwords. Ignore the offer for a free gift card and don’t believe the sob story about frozen accounts leaving people penniless.

3.) Never cash a check for someone else
You are not a credit union or a check-cashing business. If someone approaches you in person or online and asks you to cash a check for them, politely refuse. Unless you would trust this person with your life, there is no reason to believe their tale is legitimate or that their check will be honored.

4.) Report suspicious activity
If you notice any suspicious activity on your account, report it immediately. You may have fallen prey to a card cracking scam and you don’t even know it!

Scammers may be smart, but you can be smarter. When you’re educated, alert and aware, you’ll be able to spot most scams before it’s too late.

Your Turn:
Have you recently spotted any card cracking scams on your social media platforms? Share what tipped you off in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://info.rippleshot.com/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-card-cracking
https://www.google.com/search?q=card+cracking+scam&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=card+cracking&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l3.10532j0j7&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8
https://www.nextadvisor.com/blog/2016/07/18/know-about-card-cracking-scams/

How To Use The Money Envelope System

Image of person putting cash into an envelopeIf you’re like many of us, you’ve been trying to stick to a budget for a while, but by the time each month is over, you’ve busted your budget – again.

Because of this recurring pattern, you’re probably wondering if there’s a better way. Fortunately, the answer is yes!

The money envelope system has been around for years, and it’s an incredibly motivating and powerful way to keep spending in check.

Advantage One is proud to bring you this handy guide to understanding and implementing the money envelope system in your household.

Note: If you already have a workable monthly budget, you can skip to step 2.

1. Determine your monthly income and expenses
For the next few months, track all of your expenses. Hold onto every receipt or record each purchase you make, being sure to indicate which category of expense it falls under. Hold onto every pay stub, too. When a three-month period has passed, you’ll sit down to figure out exactly how much discretionary income you’re left with each month. This will not include fixed amounts, like insurance premiums, mortgage payments, savings and investments.

2. Create a budget for every expense category
Now, divide your discretionary income into different categories. The categories you need and the amounts you’ll set aside for each will depend on your individual lifestyle and habits, but you’ll likely need categories for food, gas, entertainment, transportation and clothing costs.

Review the way you’ve been spending your money in the last few months for an idea of how much you’ll need to set aside for each category. If you see you’ve been overspending in a certain area, this is a great time to resolve to cut back.

3. Create your envelopes
This is where the money envelope system differs from a regular budget. Instead of having money set aside for each category in your head, or even scribbled on a paper somewhere, take one envelope for each expense category and mark it clearly. Now, put the exact amount of cash for this month in the envelope for each category.

Do this with every expense category, and voila! You’ve created your new budgeting system!

4. Stick to your budget
As in any budget, following through on a plan is the hardest part. With the envelope system though, it’s a whole lot easier.

Say you need to make a grocery run. You’ll peek inside your “groceries” envelope, take note of how much cash is inside, and figure out how much you can afford to spend. Take that amount of money to the store with you, and only use that cash. No cheating! There’s absolutely no card-swiping allowed and no sneaking money from another envelope to beef up a skimpy cash supply in another. You need to work with what you have.

Instead of walking out of the store with a dozen items in hand that weren’t on your list, you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. And, if you find yourself running low on grocery money one month, you’ll have to make do. You can take the pantry challenge and dream up a menu created around the ingredients you have on hand, or you can shop the sales and cook according to what’s cheapest this week.

Do whatever it takes – but no cheating!

5. Reward yourself!
If you find yourself with extra money in any category at the end of the month, it’s OK to celebrate. Dave Ramsey recommends rewarding yourself with a dinner out or an expensive drink. Alternatively, you can treat that money as “rollover cash” and use it to enjoy a roomier budget next month.

Tips and tricks
Here are some variations and different approaches to this ingenious system:

  • Use a small accordion file folder instead of individual envelopes. It’ll be easier to keep track of your envelopes when they’re all in one place, and it’s sturdier than paper envelopes.
  • Go cashless! Love the idea but hate the thought of only using cash? You can still use the envelope system with some minor adjustments. There are apps designed to create virtual envelopes for you to use, such as Mvelopes. You can also use a cost-free budgeting app that allows you to divide and track your spending into different categories, such as Mint, Quicken and Monefy.
  • Trim your fixed expenses. If you’re finding it difficult to stick to your self-created budget, try to cut back on your non-discretionary spending. Search for a cheaper auto insurance plan.
  • Ditch your cable. Find ways to trim your electric bill and gas expenses. Use the money you save to add to the envelopes that never seem to have enough to get you through the month.
  • Create an emergency envelope. Set aside $20 or $50 to use in case another envelope runs out of money.

Congratulations! You’ve got the money envelope system down pat! Here’s hoping it helps you on your journey toward financial wellness.

Your Turn:
Have you tried the money envelope system? Has it worked for you? Why, or why not?

SOURCES:
https://www.moneycrashers.com/envelope-budgeting-system/
https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/envelope-system-explained
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-budget-using-the-envelope-system-1389001
https://www.pennypinchinmom.com/cashless-cash-envelope-system/