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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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

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/

Laptop/Notebook Reviews

student looking at laptops in retail storeSay goodbye to your iPhone; in college, your laptop will be your new BFF. Here’s where it all happens: the notes on your classes, your study schedule, writing those papers – your whole life is here!

Make sure you’re fully equipped to give it all you’ve got by weighing all of your options before buying a laptop or notebook. We’ve made the job easier for you by reviewing the best picks for college students today.

1.) Dell XPS 13
Price: $800-$949
For a laptop that looks amazing and is super-powerful and functional, the Dell XPS 13 is a great choice.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – Intel Core i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Intel UHD Graphics 620
    RAM: 4GB – 16GB
    Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800; touchscreen)
    Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
  • Pros: Strong battery life, Webcam orientation, Sleek, pretty exterior
  • Cons: Poor speaker placement, Relatively expensive in comparison to similar models

2.) Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
Price: $875-$999
The 2-in-1 laptop that outperforms nearly every other one on the market, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro’s best feature is its stylus, equipped with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity to make sure you don’t miss a word. Best of all, this nifty little gadget attaches to the Notebook and doesn’t need to be charged separately.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – AMD Radeon Graphics (2GB GDDR5)
    RAM: 8GB – 16GB
    Screen: 13.3-inch – 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display with Touch Screen Panel
    Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Pros: Excellent for the stylus, Sleek look and feel, Lengthy battery life
  • Cons: Downward-firing speakers, Touchscreen has only 1080 pixels

3. Asus Chromebook Flip
Price: $450-$499
Asus has slashed the price on Chromebooks while equipping the laptop with a 360-degree hinge for easy flipping.

  • Specs:
    CPU: Intel Core m3
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
    RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare
    Storage: 64GB eMMC + TPM
  • Pros: Stunning, vivid screen, Excellent price for performance and features, 360-degree hinge
  • Cons: No out-of-box Android app support, Average speakers

4. Microsoft Surface Prol9
Price: $375-$899
Finally, the next generation of tablets has made its debut. This tablet is so well-equipped that it can easily replace your laptop. The Surface Pro has several different versions, and as usual, the more you pay, the more you’ll get.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640
    RAM: 4GB – 16GB
    Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display
    Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
  • Pros: Improved battery life, Sleek, modern design, Large selection of accessories
  • Cons: Surface Pen no longer included in package, Only the i7 version can compete with Apple’s less-expensive iPad Pro

5. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
Price: $ 699 – $1200
With the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin, you’ll get the performance you’d expect from a MacBook Pro, for the price of a MacBook Air.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i7
    Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520
    RAM: 12GB – 16GB
    Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel
    Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
  • Pros: Extremely versatile, Full HD touchscreen
  • Cons: Heavyweight, Graphics don’t quite measure up to the competition

6. Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
Price: $699-$799
Need a computer that offers the perfect mix of functionality and gaming options? Look no further than the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7
    Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; Intel HD Graphics 620 – GTX 1050 Ti; Intel HD Graphics 630
    RAM: 8GB – 16GB
    Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) anti-glare LED-backlit
    Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
  • Pros: Affordable gaming setup, Excellent battery life
  • Cons: Trackpad isn’t fully reliable, Screen is deficient

7. Acer Swift 3
Price: $429-$699
If you’re looking for a budget laptop that will still do its job well, you’ve just found it. The Acer Swift 3 offers performance and value, complete with Ultrabook-class Core i processors and an incredible 8 hours of passive battery life.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
    RAM: 4GB – 8GB
    Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS
    Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
  • Pros: Powerful for its price, Strong battery life
  • Cons: Boring looks, Down-firing speakers

Your Turn: What’s your favorite laptop? How does it make tackling studies or doing course work easier and/or more productive?

SOURCES:
https://www.lifewire.com/best-laptops-for-college-students-to-buy-4071769
http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/laptops/10-best-laptops-for-students-983385
https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/285524/the-best-laptops-for-college-students

Grocery Apps

Grocery shopping is an inevitable part of life. Whether you choose to do your shopping at the corner grocery, Whole Foods or your local Walmart, remembering what you need and trying to stick to your budget can be a hassle. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this chore was a little easier?

That’s the goal of the dozens of grocery apps currently available. But with so many out there, how can you choose the one that best suits your needs?

Advantage One to the rescue! We’re proud to bring you a review of the best grocery apps. All to make your life a little easier.

Grocery iQ
Grocery IQ logoThis one has the word “IQ” in it for a reason; it’s built smartly! Grocery iQ also wants to make you a smarter shopper. This free app is one of the most full-featured grocery list apps available. It allows you to create shopping lists, scan barcodes and perform searches via voice recognition.

  • Best features
    Grocery iQ allows you to scan an item’s barcode and then store it in the app’s memory to add to future grocery lists. It’s also equipped with the super-convenient ability to clip and print coupons – it’ll even show you which coupons are available for the products on your list! Best of all, when you create a Grocery iQ account, you can sync it with your store’s loyalty card and add your coupons directly to your store account.
  • Glaring glitches
    While Grocery iQ will show you coupons for the items you’re searching for, it won’t tell you what’s on sale in other stores or offer any help with creating your menu for the week.

Out of Milk
Out of Milk logoEveryone hates running out of milk. This free app wants to make sure you never have to experience that inconvenience again! Out of Milk allows you to create a fun, interactive grocery list that makes shopping super-easy. It also lets you design to-do lists for other areas of your life outside grocery shopping.

  • Best Features
    Out of Milk’s defining feature is its Pantry List. Aptly named, this feature allows you to keep stock of what’s in your pantry and alert you when you’re running low on a food item or staple so you know when it’s time to restock. It’s like shopping with your pantry in your back pocket!
  • Glaring Glitches
    Out of Milk shines at pantry-tracking but has no added features for menu-planning, coupon-clipping or even comparison shopping.

Grocery Pal
Grocery Pal logoGrocery Pal is the bargain shopper’s dream. The free app was designed to help you browse the latest sales and deals at your favorite supersized and midsized stores, allowing you to add on-sale items to your existing grocery list with an easy click. Grocery Pal is also adept at organizing your recipes and tracking the items in your pantry. It’s truly an all-in-one app!

  • Best Features
    No more messy coupon-clipping! Grocery Pal not only allows you to browse the local sales, it will search for deals on the items on your list on its own, with no input or effort on your part.
  • Glaring Glitches
    Grocery Pal will not allow you to scan a barcode and store an item in its memory for future lists.

How they stack up
App Comparison

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite grocery-list app? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bestproducts.com/eats/food/gmp1505/grocery-shopping-list-apps/

https://www.foodbeast.com/news/the-10-best-grocery-shopping-apps/

https://www.lifewire.com/time-saving-grocery-list-app-iphone-1999329

Guide to Investing in Your 20s

Laying the groundwork for a lifelong investment strategy

Young man in front of a blackboard with financial notes on itYou have finally graduated college and, after finally finding a full-time job, can start paying back those student loans. Retirement seems like it is in the distant future and you are more concerned with living paycheck to paycheck. But it is never too early to start preparing for your future by establishing sound financial footing and taking early investment steps.

Save money
The first step to investing is to align your spending habits with your investment plans by carving out a chunk of every paycheck for savings. While you might not feel that you have the current flexibility to put away any money, the earlier you make saving an uncompromisable habit, the easier it will be to increase your investments long-term.

According to Charles Schwab Foundation president Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz in an interview with Forbes, people in their 20s should be budgeting for and saving at least 10 percent of their annual income. While this may seem excessive, the more you have saved early on, the more it will compound over the next 50 years. Not to mention, it is a solid step to increasing your savings rate to 20 percent in your 30s.

Pay off your debts
Get out from underneath the oppressive thumb of student loan and credit card debt as quickly as possible by establishing an aggressive debt repayment plan. According to Stacy Rapacon of Kiplinger, the longer you let debt linger, the further it will set your finances back in the form of greater interest payments and lower credit scores. The sooner you repay your debts and free yourself from crippling interest payments, the more money you’ll have to invest in your future.

Fund your retirement
It is never too early to start setting aside money in your retirement fund, especially since the years will only compound how much you will have in your account by the time you retire. Rapacon of Kiplinger calculates that if you invest $100 a month as a 25-year-old, assuming an 8 percent return and quarterly compounding, you’ll have around $346,000 by the time you turn 65.

Investing money in a retirement fund now is even more essential because of your employer’s matching program. Arielle O’Shea of NerdWallet highly suggests taking advantage of your employer’s generosity by contributing to any available retirement plan, such as a 401k, especially if your employer offers a matching percentage.

If you don’t have access to a company-based 401k, Forbes’ Samantha Sharf recommends investigating the option of starting a Roth IRA or Roth 401k that taxes your contributions now but lets those contributions grow tax-free for the rest of your lifetime.

Take risks
Those who do invest in their 20s often do so conservatively because they don’t want to see any of their hard-earned money lost, but that also limits the potential for their investments to grow. According to O’Shea, “Many millennial investors make the mistake of avoiding risk even though it helps them over a long timeframe.” Thus, to reach your target retirement financial goals, it is important to allocate much of your portfolio to stocks over bonds. While there may be more short-term drops, Vanguard analyses show that it is the way to get a better lifelong annual return.

Get advice
If you are not sure what the best investment options are for you, or would like additional clarification on what investing involves, it never hurts to ask for advice from an advisor who can help you map out a financial plan that spans. O’Shea of Nerdwallet recommends even opening an account with a robo-advisor that will give you basic insights into your current plan and offer advice on the next steps.

Your gut feeling may be to wait to invest and spend your money elsewhere while you are young, but the more aggressively you save and invest your income now, the better prepared you will be for retirement.

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

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

Tips to limit what you spend on gifts this season

Woman holiday shopping online using a laptop and a credit cardThe holidays should be time for celebration and generosity, not for accumulating credit card debt and draining your savings. By sticking to a budget and following these simple strategies, you can bestow meaningful gifts while staying within your financial means.

Create a budget
Donna Montaldo, contributor to TheBalance.com, advises that you make a spending budget before the holiday season hits. Make this an informed amount, based on what you can truly afford to pay.

Make a list
Maya Kachroo-Levine, contributor to Forbes.com, suggests making a list of everyone you want to buy presents for along with a certain amount you should spend on each person. This will help you stay within your allotted budget.

Avoid using credit cards
Montaldo recommends leaving your credit cards at home to avoid racking up debt while shopping. Mellody Hobson, writer for ABC News, recommends using your debit card instead. This way, you won’t be tempted to spend beyond your means and you won’t have to pay interest on your purchases.

Start saving early
Kachroo-Levine advises starting a holiday spending fund as early as possible so that when the holidays approach, you will already have a surplus to tap into. Consider setting aside $30 a week starting two to three months before the holidays.

Compare prices
Hobson suggests that you research prices before purchasing any gift. If you’re shopping in person, use your phone to check online to see if there’s a discounted price if you order an item online. You can also check prices of that item at similar stores.

Re-gifting
Another affordable option to stay within your budget this holiday is to re-gift an item that you received but don’t use or need, explains Montaldo. Make sure the gift is new and wrap it in an attractive package to give it a fresh look.

Go homemade
Browse ideas on Pinterest and others websites for simple gifts that you can make yourself. Montaldo suggests visiting the dollar store to purchase candy or nuts that you can package in mason jars and wrap with festive bows. Handmade items such as cookies or homemade bath salts are two additional ideas great for teachers and coworkers.

Rethink gifts for your partner
It can be easy to overspend on the people closest to you, particularly your spouse or significant other. Kachroo-Levine recommends setting money aside earlier in the year to purchase a high-cost experience or household item that you both have been wanting. Another great idea is to give your partner the gift of quality time this year, to avoid focusing on material possessions as gifts.

Amp up your gift’s appearance
Montaldo advises enhancing the visual appearance of your present by investing in quality gift wrap, ribbons, bows and accessories. You can also add a personal touch by making your own gift wrap, following do-it-yourself instructions on sites like Pinterest and Instructables.

Say “no” to holiday guilt
A thoughtful gift doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive one. Also, you don’t have to buy an item for every coworker and acquaintance you know, explains Kachroo-Levine.

Stay within your budget by applying these practical suggestions for giving affordable holiday gifts this season.

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