Month: October 2018

refinance

Should I Refinance My Mortgage?

You can refinance just about any loan, but doing so with a mortgage requires careful consideration. After all, paying off your existing home loan and replacing it could save you thousands. On the other hand, it could lead to foreclosure. Here are some reasons why people make this choice, along their related pros and cons.

Lower rates & better terms

The most common thinking behind refinancing is to get lower interest rates. However, if it’s only a marginal decrease, it’s likely not worth the switch. There are several expenses that go along with the process, including appraisals, processing, and application & origination fees. Make sure you factor these in before deciding.

Determine your break-even point by dividing the total closing costs by your estimated savings. For example, if you’re spending $200 less per month, but paying $4,000 in closing costs, it will take almost two years to break even. In this case, if you’re planning to move soon, it’s not the best idea.

Sometimes rates can fall low enough for homeowners to shorten their repayment periods and have only slightly higher mortgages. You’ll only want to do this if you’re at the beginning of your term or you’ll be starting all over again.

Lock it in

Adjustable-rate mortgages are for those seeking low initial rates that rise or fall with the market. If you have such a loan and you’re getting nervous about rising payments, you can refinance to a fixed product. On the flip side, you can usually change to an adjustable loan when rates are falling. This could be a good option if you’re not planning on staying in your house for more than a few years.

Cash-in equity

Some will refinance and tap into their equity. This can be a quick way to free up some cash for a large expense, such as remodeling or paying for school. Improvements do add value to a home, and an education may lead to a higher-paying job, but if you should be careful that it doesn’t bring along higher rates and longer terms.

Consolidate debt

And finally, some people refinance and use the equity to pay off other debts, such as credit card bills, car payments, student loans, etc. While a mortgage might bring a lower rate, you should only take this route if you can avoid getting back into debt again. If not, you’ll end up with the same problems, as well as a potentially problematic loan. Not to mention that you could lose your house if you don’t meet your obligations.

If you’re considering refinancing, the first step should be analyzing your existing mortgage and comparing it to your what’s available and what you might qualify to receive. This is easy with America First’s free online calculators.

birthday parties

Birthday Parties That Won’t Break the Bank

Checking Pinterest & Instagram is a great way to find fun ideas for kids’ birthday parties, but it’s easy to be overwhelmed when you see how much other people are spending. There’s no need to take out a loan for your next bash, however. Here are ten tips on how to save while celebrating.

  1. Themes – Decide with your child what kind of party is ideal. Picking a theme helps keep you focused on what you need to buy. Find inexpensive treats, decorations, games and party favors that fit. A little creativity can go a long way and make the occasion more memorable.
  2. Limit the guest list – While your son or daughter may want to invite everyone in your neighborhood (as well as the next one), it’s best to keep the guest list short. Try keeping it to close friends and family.
  3. Find a free venue – These usually require that you do most, if not all, of the set-up and clean-up yourself, but hosting birthday parties at your own home is the least expensive option. If you need more space, consider going to a park or reserving a room at a local community center.
  4. Sign up for savings – If your little boy or girl is intent on going to a restaurant or family fun center, sign up for the company’s birthday club. These loyalty programs typically offer discounts on reservations, free game tokens, or even free admission. Register early, though, because processing may take a few days.
  5. Cut out the cost of decor – The dollar store has a wide variety of paper goods, decorations, and even costumes to fit your theme. However, don’t assume that everything there is a good deal. Compare prices online and get the best bargain.
  6. Get crafty – Your kids can be involved in making the invitations and decorating the space. They will love expressing themselves and putting their work on display for all to see. You can even make crafting part of your festivities and have guests make something to take home instead of candy and toys.
  7. Bake the cake – Cake mixes are less expensive than store-bought items. Make your own with your child and, remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Kids can add their own touches with the frosting and sprinkles.
  8. Time it right – If you don’t want to spend money on food for a large group, have the party start after 2 p.m. and end before 5 p.m. so guests don’t expect a meal. If your child wants treats in addition to cake and ice cream, have everyone decorate cookies or cupcakes, which is an activity and treat combined into one.
  9. Examine the entertainment – Keep the activities simple. Well-known games such as freeze tag, musical chairs, charades, Simon Says, limbo and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey can be modified to fit the theme and don’t require many supplies. You can also check out movies from your local library to put on as things are winding down.
  10. Combine the celebrations – Finally, consider having joint birthday parties with friends or family members who were born around the same time. Then you can split the costs, saving you even more money.

Donate to End Hunger

Even in communities as caring and close-knit as ours, too many people go hungry. That’s why the annual Greater Good food drive is so important to us.

Through October 20, we’ll be accepting canned & non-perishable groceries—along with other necessities like toothbrushes, diapers and soap—at all America First branches.

And, as a small way of expressing our appreciation, you’ll get one entry for each item you donate in our drawing for a free Apple Watch.

Please visit us here to find the credit union location nearest you.

*Eligibility & conditions apply to the drawing. Participants must be at least 18 years of age.

Your Partner in Achieving Lifelong Economic Stability

America First Financial Solutions, available through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (CFS*), provides a variety of beneficial insurance and investment products that can help you achieve your personal financial objectives.

Whether these goals are saving for a home, providing resources for college, or planning a comfortable retirement, we can assist with:

  • 401k and TSP rollovers
  • Stocks & bonds
  • Mutual funds
  • Annuities
  • Life insurance & long-term care
  • Higher education planning

Please call 1-800-999-3961 for a no-cost, no-obligation appointment.

*Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (CFS), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Investment representatives are registered through CFS. The credit union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to members.

Security Update: Going Online Means Staying On Your Guard

Our world becomes increasingly digital every day and, as more personal & financial information goes online, strong cybersecurity is essential. Here are some ways to stay safe:

  • Strong passwords offer better protection than PINs. You should also create different, personalized phrases for each account.
  • Take advantage of two-step account authentication when it’s available.
  • Monitor transaction activity frequently with free online banking and immediately report any discrepancies.
  • Download our free Card Guard® mobile app to set controls for when, where, and how your Visa® credit & debit cards can be used.
  • Always lock your smartphone or tablet.
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar or suspicious links/attachments, especially if you didn’t request them.
  • Limit what you share on social media.

For details about protecting your resources, visit us here.

The Power of Pulling Together

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

I recently read an interesting article about the power and majesty of draft horses, which also provided me with a valuable learning example.

While the Clydesdales may be the most familiar to many, given their presence in holiday advertising, there are actually several different breeds of draft horses.

Weighing up to a ton, these magnificent, muscular animals can pull and move tremendous loads. A single draft horse can haul up to 8,000 pounds. Such strength is difficult to imagine, but the lesson is more effective when I discovered what two horses working together can accomplish.

The obvious answer would seem to be 16,000 pounds or twice the weight one can drag behind him. But two of these horses can move up to 24,000 pounds—three times the weight one can tow. This alone illustrates the value of teamwork, but more impressive is the fact that when two draft horses are trained together and labor alongside each other, their pulling capacity increases to 32,000 pounds—four times the weight either could have moved alone!

Life is full of twists, turns and ongoing challenges, which often requires significant effort to reach our goals, especially when it comes to personal or business finances. At America First, our desire is to be an essential part of your financial team. We are confident that, as we regularly work and learn together, we can truly improve your well-being in ways extending far beyond what could be managed by one individual.

Whether you’re consolidating and reducing debt, saving for the future, establishing good credit, working on a financial or estate plan, purchasing or remodeling a home, financing a vehicle, funding a business venture, or using our award-winning technology, we are here to help.

Thanks for your membership and loyalty. We look forward to a lifelong relationship of pulling together with you and your family.