Halloween

Financial Wisdom from Halloween Movies

Horror films aren’t just good for scares, they can also teach valuable financial lessons. Here are eight pieces of wisdom you can take from iconic Halloween movies.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

The Story: Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) stalks the dreams of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and other teenagers in a quiet suburban town.

The Lesson: Dreaming is fun & healthy, but you need to keep your feet grounded in reality—otherwise you could get hurt. Develop a sense for what you can and can’t afford. Don’t buy what isn’t necessary or max out your credit on impulse items (like cool bladed gloves).

The Blair Witch Project

The Story: A group of filmmakers disappear while creating a documentary in a Maryland forest, leaving only their footage behind.

The Lesson: Heather, Josh and Mike lose their way in the Black Hills because they act irresponsibly and misplace their map. You can also get lost, financially, if you don’t have a plan. Create a budget and stick to it—then your money won’t vanish into thin air.

Signs

The Story: A family on a remote Pennsylvania farm slowly begin to realize they are experiencing an alien invasion.

The Lesson: When bad things start to happen, the Hess family hunkers down in their home for the night, seeking to protect themselves. Self-sufficiency will help you weather the hard times, and you can build up things like food storage a little bit at a time. And don’t forget to have plenty of water on hand!

Ghostbusters

The Story: After being fired from their jobs, three professors (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis) form their own ghost-hunting business and soon face an entity that could destroy the entire city.

The Lesson: Starting a company is difficult, requiring a lot of money and a lot of time. However, if you keep your costs low and your customers satisfied, soon you’ll be expanding and hiring new people to join your team (like Winston Zeddemore).

The Shining

The Story: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) brings his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son with him to work as caretakers of an isolated mountain hotel in the winter.

The Lesson: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, he claims as he slowly descends into madness. When you’re striving toward a big financial goal, such as paying off your credit cards or saving enough to build a giant hedge maze, it’s fine to reward yourself for achieving short-term benchmarks.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The Story: Matthew (Donald Sutherland) and Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) notice their friends are acting strangely, only to discover that humans are slowly being replaced with alien clones as they sleep.

The Lesson: Identity theft is a scary thing. Don’t give sensitive information to unknown persons over the phone. Verify all emails are from legitimate senders before clicking on links. And don’t go to bed next to any alien pods.

Psycho

The Story: While driving to California, Marian Crane (Janet Leigh) stops by the isolated Bates Motel and meets Norman (Anthony Perkins) and his mysterious mother.

The Lesson: There will come a time when you need to leave your parents’ home and become your own person. But you need to be financially stable when you do. Learning skills such as saving a good portion of your income and how to pay bills. If Norman had enough money put away, he might have been able to leave the motel business and his overbearing mother.

The Exorcist

The Story: A young girl (Linda Blair) is overpowered by a dark force, so her mother gets the help of two priests to exorcise the demon and save her child.

The Lesson: It’s tempting to save some money by fixing things at home by yourself, but you need to know your limits. If you get in over your head, you could end up causing additional damage and spending even more. Sometimes it’s worth calling a professional and letting them take care of it (while you relax and enjoy a warm bowl of pea soup).

Happy Halloween!

ATM

Don’t Fear the ATM

It was a dark and stormy night. A young woman approached the ATM aside a dimly lit sidewalk to withdraw some cash. As she neared the machine, she heard a faint rustling behind a bush. She squinted her eyes and peered through the leaves, where she thought she could make out a large, dark shadow. She felt uneasy, so she walked back to her car and drove to another ATM with better lighting, making a transaction there without a problem. If you want to avoid potentially scary situations at ATMs, here are some tips stay safe.

Keep your eyes open

Take note of your surroundings. If anyone is loitering near the machine or in a parked car close by, consider another location. If you’re using a drive-up ATM, make sure all your windows are rolled up and your doors are locked before making a transaction.

Inspect the machine before inserting a card. Scammers can install skimming devices to steal your information for later use. Look for glue-like residue, excessive scratches, loose or crooked pieces, and other signs of damage. If you see anything unusual, don’t proceed and notify the building owner.

If you’re using an ATM at night, bring someone with you or try to find a high-traffic area with bright lights. Trust your gut. If you feel strange or if the person behind you seems to be peering over your shoulder at the keypad, hit cancel and go elsewhere.

Minimize the time

Park as close as you can, have your card available, and be ready to go. If you’re taking out money, decide how much you want before you approach the ATM. And don’t count it while you’re standing there; put it in your pocket or purse and do that later. For deposits, endorse your checks and fill out all the slips in advance.

Guard your information

Memorize your PIN & keep it a secret. Don’t write it down, especially not on the back of your card, as that will give thieves immediate access. Place your body squarely in front of the machine and cover the keys with your hand while entering the number. Never permit a stranger to help you.

When the receipt pops out, take it with you and, before throwing it away, tear it into small pieces. Regularly check your statements, as well, which is fast & simple with free online banking. If you discover any unapproved ATM withdrawals, contact your financial institution immediately.

Most ATM transactions occur without incident, but if someone does try to rob you, comply with any demands. After all, your life is worth more than the cash.

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.

savings

Comparing Savings & Checking

When it comes to banking, the two most common accounts are checking & savings. Some think they’re interchangeable, but understanding the differences can help you earn more and ensure funds are available when you need them most.

Regarding Spending

Savings is the basic building block for financial well-being. As the name suggests, it’s a safe place to store your money for a rainy day. Most credit unions, including America First, require a savings account for membership.

Because these are funds that should be set aside for later, accessing the account isn’t as easy as swiping a card at a gas pump. In fact, there are federal withdrawal regulations—no more than six per month are allowed and this includes transfers via online banking. There is no limit, however, to how many deposits you can make.

Checking is the highway to your money, with multiple access routes. Checkbooks and/or debit cards come with this account for daily transactions. You can also set up automatic withdrawals for reoccurring payments, such as utility bills, mortgages and auto loans. You should keep your liquid assets here, so they’re available at a moment’s notice.

Many banks require a minimum balance and a minimum number of transactions every month. Others charge you for maintenance or when certain criteria are not met. America First checking accounts offer unlimited transactions and you’ll never have any annual or monthly maintenance fees.

When it Comes to Saving

As easy as they are to use, checking is not a great place to save. Typically, checking accounts earn little to no dividends. If you want your resources to grow, keep them in savings—it’s a simple investment, where your balance will increase over time with virtually no risk.

Using both accounts in tandem is the best way to manage your money. Keep only what you need to cover your bills in checking, then put the rest in savings. It’s also smart to hold savings & checking at the same financial institution so you can quickly transfer money from one to the other. You’ll benefit from higher yields while maintaining access to your money.

America First Launches 14th Annual Community Food Drive to Serve Those in Need

For Immediate Release:

America First Launches 14th Annual Community Food Drive to Serve Those in Need
Items will be donated to Utah Food Bank, Three Square Las Vegas and other local food pantries in the community

Riverdale, Utah – (Sept. 21, 2018) – With a profound commitment to helping the underprivileged in the communities it services, America First Credit Union kicks off the season of giving with the launch of its 14th Annual Community Food Drive this Monday, Sept. 17, which runs through Saturday, Oct. 20. All branch locations throughout Utah and Southern Nevada will accept donations of non-perishable food items to distribute to local food pantries and food banks including Utah Food Bank and Three Square Las Vegas.

America First Credit Union started the Community Food Drive in 2004 and, with the help of employees and members, has collected nearly 168,000 pounds of food. Last year America First collected more than 18,000 pounds of food, which equates to over 15,000 meals to those in need, and this year they’re hoping to beat it.

“At America First we take great pride in the communities we serve and giving back to those communities is an integral part of our mission,” said John Lund, President and CEO of America First. “As the season of giving quickly approaches it is important to give back to those less fortunate and the annual Community Food Drive is a great way for our members and employees to get involved.”

The most needed non-perishable food items include, but are not limited to, canned vegetables, canned tuna fish, and peanut butter (no glass), among others. The public and America First members are encouraged to donate at any branch in Utah and Nevada through Saturday, Oct. 20.

To for more information or to find the nearest branch to make a donation, visit www.americafirst.com. Find America First Credit Union on Facebook, Twitter, or follow @AmericaFirst on Instagram and Pinterest.

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About America First Credit Union:

With a long-standing history and more than 79 years servicing members, America First has become one of the largest, most stable and most progressive credit unions in the country, and has remained a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative financial institution. Today, America First has 129 locations, and is the 9th largest credit union in assets in the United States with over $10 billion, and the sixth largest credit union in membership in America with more than 984,000 members.

Media Contact: 
Nicole Cypers
America First Credit Union
C: 801-726-9480
ncypers@americafirst.com

Tara Trovato
Quillin Advertising, Public Relations & Social Media
D: 702-800-7803
C: 702-286-6272
tara@quillinlv.com