Financial Education

smart pig bankToday Unison blog readers, I get to talk about someone else here at Unison! (Insert flashing applause sign here) Laura Weber is Unison’s Financial Education Coordinator. What does that mean? Well, in keeping with our philosophy “people helping people”, one of the ways we help our members and our community is through financial education. Laura was brought on staff to fulfill the growing needs of this area. She is doing a fantastic job reaching out to our area communities and teaching us to be financially smart!

Twenty years ago, Unison started the Classroom Credit Union program. Classroom Credit Union is a series of three classroom visits covering lessons on savings, checking and loans. It is wrapped up by a tour of the credit union and a small “graduation” ceremony for the students. Laura is currently teaching in 19 second grade classrooms in the Kaukauna, Little Chute and Wrightstown Elementary schools!

Laura also teaches various financial education topics to middle and high school classes in the Wrightstown, Kaukauna and Little Chute school districts; as well as oversees the education efforts within our student-run branches inside of Kaukauna and Little Chute High Schools.

Along with teaching students the importance of positive financial habits, Laura represents Unison on various community outreach committees; including the Fox Cities Money Smart Week planning committee. Money Smart Week in Wisconsin is April 22-27 and is a joint effort by organizations across the state to hold events, workshops and presentations that offer financial education. Events are held for all age groups and focus on helping people learn to better manage their personal finances.

Below you will find a list of fun and educational events happening throughout the week at Unison and around the Fox Cities. We hope you plan to attend!

Monday, April 22

6:00pm-8:00

Unison Credit Union

1616 Crooks Ave, Kaukauna

The Bargain Sleuth, Jennifer Jacobson-Carew – Curious About Couponing?

Want to learn more about couponing? Attend this FREE workshop and become a money saving expert!

 

Tuesday, April 23

11:30am-1:00

Fox Valley Technical College

1825 Bluemound Dr, Appleton

Room E130 ABCD, entrance 10

Rachel Cruze, “Myths Women Believe About Money”

Rachel Cruze, daughter of financial guru Dave Ramsey, will speak at this spectacular luncheon event for women. Registration required, $15 per ticket. Purchase your ticket at:

http://rachelcruzelunch.eventbrite.com/

 

Tuesday, April 23

6:30pm-8:00

Holiday Inn

150 S Nicolet Rd, Appleton

 

Rachel Cruze, “Money and Not So Common Sense”

Rachel Cruze, daughter of financial guru Dave Ramsey, will speak at this FREE event. Registration required, register at:

http://rachelcruzeevening.eventbrite.com/#

Saturday, April 27

10:00am-11:00

Check with your local library for participation

 

The Big Read

This is a read-aloud event for families and children. Children will receive a free book! The event is FREE and no registration is required.

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Credit Unions Help Students When They Need It Most

graduation capWhile many banks and other lenders have stopped offering private student loans to focus on bigger, more profitable loan types, members still can depend on Unison Credit Union to help students of all ages pay for school. Credit unions have lower loan rates and provide more products and services for students, according to CBS Money Watch.
While students should first exhaust all sources of free money for school—grants and scholarships—and federal student loans, a private loan can help fulfill any remaining financial need. A Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan from Unison offers competitive interest rates, payment flexibility and several re-payment and discount options. Low rates are just the beginning at Unison! We also offer no-fee checking and debit cards, low-rate credit cards and low-rate auto loans and mortgages. Added to that mix is personal service and financial education to help all of our college-age students manage their money wisely.

Are you a high school senior, a parent of one or know a graduating senior going to college who could use some FREE MONEY (yep, f-r-e-e $$)? The Unison Credit Union John Aman Memorial Scholarship awards $1,000 to up to three (3) individuals who best mirror the credit union philosophy of “people helping people”. Information and applications are available at any of our locations or on our website http://www.unisoncu.org/member-benefits/member-opportunities/scholarships.aspx

Application are due by March 23, 2013!

Copyright 2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

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In like a lion, out like a lamb

lambHave you heard the old idiom about March weather – “in like a lion, out like a lamb” and vice versa?  According to the saying, weather at the end of the month will be the opposite of what happens at the start of the month.

Do your monthly finances do the same? It would be great to keep income/expenses good and calm “like a lamb” throughout the entire month. 
 
Unison offers a variety of budgeting tools found on both our website, unisoncu.org,  and within It’sMe247 online banking to help keep those financial “lions” tame and under control. There is a good deal of information available on both sites especially under the Resource Center tab on the Unison page.
 
Perhaps you haven’t fully embraced technology – our Financial Services Representatives can help answer questions and offer advice on budgeting too!  Also, we will be hosting workshops throughout the year.  On April 22, our favorite coupon clipper Jennifer Jacobson-Carew, will be returning to the credit union once again during Money Smart Week to share her bargain shopping tips. Check back for details.
 
Looks like our March weather is coming in like a lamb…which way is your financial month coming in?

 

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Make the Tax Season Less “Taxing”

TaxTimeAre you benefiting from all the tax advantages available to you? Here are a few tax tips that may help.

The Earned Income Credit
The EIC is designed to assist lower-income working people by reducing taxes paid, or giving a credit, even if no tax is owed.

To qualify for the EIC, you (or your spouse) must have a job, have wages below a certain level and file a federal tax return. If you’re not working now, but you earned income last year, you still may be able to claim the EIC on this year’s tax return. You can find specific guidelines and income thresholds on the IRS website at irs.gov (search for earned income tax credit).

Voluntary Income Tax Assistance
Tax forms can be complicated, and you may want some help completing yours. The IRS’ VITA program offers free help for low- to moderate-income taxpayers, those earning $50,000 or below.

VITA’s trained volunteers can determine whether you qualify for the EIC or other tax credits, prepare your forms, and file your tax return electronically. Most VITA sites are located in community centers, schools, shopping malls and similar locations. To find the site nearest you, call 800-906-9887.

Refund Anticipation Loans
If the IRS owes you a refund, it may be tempting to accept a “rapid refund,” or “instant refund.” Several national tax-preparation firms offer this option, which many people don’t realize is actually a high-interest loan or refund anticipation loan (RAL).

RALs are short-term cash advances through large banks secured by consumers’ expected tax refunds. The interest rates for these loans are astounding, averaging between 70% and 1,700% nationwide. They usually only speed up the refund process by a couple of weeks – then consumers’ tax refunds pay off the loans and fees. There may be additional fees that could accumulate:

  • Check Fee
  • Account Processing Fee
  • Finance Fee
  • Technology Fee
  • Refund Estimate Fee
  • Tax Preparation Fee
  • E-file Fee
  • Bank Documents Fee
  • Transmission Fee
  • Service Bureau Fee

If you aren’t paying close attention to charges, these fees could add up to as much as $1,000. It’s better to wait for your refund, but if you do need cash immediately, talk to a Financial Services Representative at Unison about the possibility of a short-term loan.

 

Copyright 2007-2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

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Upcoming Events: February is Fun-ruary at Unison!

 

heartCan you believe it is the middle of February? This month may be short on days but it is not short on events here at Unison!

What activity can you do in about an hour that saves up to three lives and rewards you with delicious baked goodies? Donating Blood! Unison’s Little Chute branch will be hosting a Valentine’s Day Community Blood Drive from 2:00-5:00pm. What a super way to celebrate happy heart day!

February 20th marks the 80th Annual Meeting of Unison Credit Union. 80 years, wow! Join us at 6:30pm in the Kaukauna High School auditorium to hear about the past year and see what’s in store for 2013. Enjoy refreshments and chat with other member/owners of the Unison family.

We are a sponsor of Y100’s “Take Me Backstage” concert t-shirt promotion. More details can be found on the Y100 website http://wncy.com/backstage-tshirts/. We will be hosting a live remote (also know as a “t-shirt truck stop”) at our Crooks Ave. location from 11:30am-2:30pm on February 26th. Pick up your shirt and enter to win front row tickets to the upcoming Luke Bryan concert!! Yes, you read that correctly—front row.

Save the dates:

Feb. 14th – Blood Drive, 2:00pm-5:00pm, Little Chute branch

Feb. 20th – 80th Annual Meeting, 6:30pm, Kaukauna High School Auditorium & Commons

Feb. 26th – Y100 Live Remote, 11:30am-2:30pm, Kaukauna South branch (Crooks Ave.)

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2013 Stick to it! – Wedding Budgets

wedding cakeCongratulations on your recent engagement! Ok, maybe you didn’t get engaged but you might know someone who did. According to TheKnot.com, the most popular month to get engaged is December (16%) and the average cost of a wedding is just over $27,000.  Wouldn’t it be great to have the wedding day you want and stay on budget? The smart couple can have their cake-pops and eat them too with a well thought out budget plan for the special day.

Your first wedding planning to-do is setting a wedding budget. Estimate how much money you can and want to save over the length of your engagement. Since most engagements last 12-16 months, couples should have plenty of time to create a realistic savings goal. From the invites to the reception, it will help to breakdown the wedding into sub-categories and create a budget for each of them. Start by creating a basic wedding checklist:

Ceremony

Reception

Attire

Photography

Invites/Stationery

Flowers

Cake/Bakery

Look for a wedding budget checklist and planning worksheets online or create your own. Make it as simple to complex as you desire. Once you have a checklist or worksheet set, begin to research and get quotes from at least three places/businesses in each of the categories to find an average cost. Use those numbers as a guide to help figure an overall budget. The many wedding expos and events that take place this time of year would be great resources. There are a handful of vendors in almost, if not all, of the categories.

Unison has a great financial tool to help you organize your wedding budget and stick to it!  We cordially invite you to open a sub-share savings account. Sub-share accounts will allow you to categorize each aspect of your wedding. Under your main savings you can add up to 11 sub-accounts and name them to correspond with your wedding categories. The convenience of It’sMe247 online banking will allow you to effortlessly transfer money between savings, sub-shares and your checking account. Add CU*Easy Pay bill pay to your checking for a super quick way to pay your wedding vendors.

An unexpected circumstance or expense may occur along the way, affecting your wedding savings goal. If assuming some debt for the big day is inevitable, shop for the best low rate credit card or loan. Add up how much money you have saved for the wedding and how much you have left to pay. Calculate what you will be able to set aside for post-wedding bills each month. Unison’s Visa® Platinum Credit Card low-interest rate will help keep your payments manageable. There is no annual or balance transfer fee and you can make payments or track purchases online from your It’sMe247 account. Other options are to take out a personal loan or Unison’s kwik cash line of credit. Find more info about kwik cash under the “Borrowing” tab on our website.  

Making a budget for your wedding, and sticking to it, will let you enjoy your special event without suffering from a financial hangover the day after.  

Thank you for choosing Unison to help you realize your financial potential in 2013!

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Dear Family & Friends

Dear_penFirst of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS! Snow, Christmas lights, cookie decorating (and eating), hot chocolate with candy canes, present wrapping…fun times and traditions this time of year!

 

You and I, at some point, have been the recipient or the author of an annual tradition—the family “Year In Review” Christmas letter. You know, those photocopied messages tucked in a Christmas card highlighting the year’s high points–all the vacations taken, what extracurricular activities or academics the kids excelled in or the addition of a new family pet. The infamous holiday letter is a fun tradition for those who write one and, yes, those of us that know one will be in the mail from you.

 

This year, I am starting a new letter tradition. I will be writing one…to myself…and about my financial choices throughout 2012. No, I am not tipping back too much eggnog while writing this. Hear me out

Not every purchase, deposit or debt will be crammed into the letter. I will keep it light and concentrate on the good financial choices made. Bragging will be acceptable here. The low points, such as spending $75 over my allotted shoe budget, is a negative that will get a bit of a positive spin. I’m not sugar coating the spending snafus but making light of them. What were impulse buys, which purchases can I justify and did I contribute enough to savings? Seeing my financial habits written out this way may help me in 2013 to adjust my spending and saving budgets. Let’s try writing this letter together. I don’t think I’ll send it in a card to myself, but you can if that will bring a smile.

 

Read about the Unison Family “Year In Review” in our upcoming InUnison newsletter. Until then, enjoy reading and writing those Christmas letters. Merry Christmas!

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Thankful for tradition.

Many of us share in the same Thanksgiving Day tradition to stuff ourselves silly with delicious goodies then fall into a food coma for a couple of hours. Repeat two more times that day.  

At Unison, our holiday season is “stuffed” with tradition! The day after Thanksgiving is not our “Black Friday” it’s our “Fantastic Friday,” when we gear up for Christmas parades, parties, charity drive, calendars and more!

Starting Friday, November 23rd you can stop in for your 2013 calendar. I could tell you what they look like, but that would ruin the fun of finding out for yourself! While you’re in, don’t forget to purchase our festive Christmas money envelopes. There are eight designs to choose from at 25 cents each, or 5 for $1.00, and all the proceeds from envelope sales will be donated to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

That day is also the kickoff for our annual Christmas Charity Drive. From November 23rd to December 15th, we will be collecting items to create  “Snuggle Sacks” for children that benefit from services provided by the Community Clothes Closet. This awesome organization helps client expand their limited resources by giving away new and gently used clothing and household items FREE to those in need in the Fox Valley Area. The goal of our charity drive this year is to give a each child a new pair of pajamas, a new fleece blanket and a new book and pillow to keep them cozy during the cold winter season. These items are given to children bundled together as a “snuggle sack”. 

You can provide a child in need with a “Snuggle Sack”. Unison is collecting the following items:

  • New Pajamas
  • New books
  • New fleece (preferably two coordinating pieces measuring 1 1/2 yards each for a blanket) or a pre-made fleece blanket
  • New standard size pillows

Unison will donate $5 to the Community Clothes Closet for every item donated (up to $1,500).

Add those items to your holiday shopping lis,t then drop off your donation at any of our four locations on your way home. Let me thank you in advance for your donation :)

Bundle up the family, fill your thermos with hot cocoa and find the ideal spot along the parade route for the upcoming Little Chute, Kaukauna and Wrightstown Christmas parades.  Moola Moola, our kids’ club mascot, and members of the Unison family will be rolling in style this year—come and see for yourself at one or all of the parades!

Area Christmas Parade Schedule:

Little Chute—Monday, November 26th at 6:30pm

Wrightstown—Saturday, December 1st at Noon

Kaukauna—Tuesday, December 4th at 6:00pm

Speaking of Moola Moola, our mini members can join him and Santa at our annual Moola Moola Kids’ Club Christmas Party. Decorate cookies, make a craft, get your face painted and enjoy hot chocolate while waiting to tell Santa and Moola what’s on your Christmas wishlist!

Moola Moola Christmas Party:

Thursday, December 6th from 6:00-7:30pm at the Kaukauna Community Center

We look forward to the past, present and future traditions. Unison Credit Union has been a community tradition for 80 years and we have you, our members, to thank. From all of us at Unison, thank you and have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Don’t Share It, Shred It!

Click. Grrrrrrzzzzzgrindgrindgrindwhizzzzz. Yeeaaaaah! Repeat.

“Chompers”, the mini paper shredder gets fed about once a week at my house. He feasts on receipts, junk mail, old documents or any notes I can find taking refuge on my desk or in my purse. “Chompers” shreds paper into diamonds and, after all, diamonds are a girls’ best friend, especially when it comes to document shredding.

You bet I enjoy the process of shredding, especially the sound my little shredder makes. But part of me thinks it is crazy that protecting our identity by shredding personal information has become a norm in many homes and businesses. Please tell me that you, too, can’t fathom the idea of a person rummaging through the trash in search of a snippet of information to steal from someone!

What do we need to shred or destroy? A good way to answer that question is to breakdown the information into three categories of sensitivity: high, medium, low.

High: documents containing your social security, account or credit card numbers, passwords, PIN (personal identification number), medical/health insurance forms and records, prescription labels and paperwork.

Medium: information containing your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, email address

Low: items containing your full (legal) name, address, phone number

Items to consider shredding:

Address labels from junk mail and magazines

ATM receipts

Account statements

Birth certificate copies

Canceled and voided checks

Credit and charge card bills, carbon copies, summaries and receipts

Credit reports and histories

Documents relating to investments or loans

Documents containing passwords or PIN numbers

Driver’s licenses or items with a driver’s license number

Employee pay stubs

Employment records

Envelopes with return addresses of friends and family

Expired insurance and membership cards

Expired passports and visas

Legal documents

Investment, stock and property transactions

Items with a signature (leases, contracts, letters)

Luggage tags

Medical and dental records

Photo copies of identification cards (college IDs, state IDs, employee ID badges, military IDs)

Pre-approved credit card applications

Receipts

Report cards

Resumés

Tax forms

Transcripts

Travel itineraries

Used airline tickets

Utility bills (telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, Internet)

Now you have a list to reference and help determine what you should shred – and it is just in time for Unison’s Shred Fest!  Our fall Shred Fest will be Saturday, October 13th from 9:00am to Noon at the Kaukauna South location. Twice a year, May and October, we partner with Cintas mobile document shredding services, to offer you the ideal opportunity to safely and securely dispose of sensitive information.  Over 6,000 lbs. of paperwork was shredded at our spring Shred Fest! Load up a box (or boxes—a 10 box maximum) of shred-worthy documents, toss it in the car (please don’t hurt yourself doing that), drive it over to Shred Fest, grab a sweet treat while you’re waiting, let the Cintas people unload the goods, then drive away happy!

Taking simple steps to properly dispose of the items on the list will go a long way toward securing your personal information and identity.

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Toot Toot!

Toot Toot!

That is just me tooting the Unison horn! We have a few good reasons for making some noise. Recently, Unison was chosen by nerdwallet.com as one of the credit unions offering “The Best Place for Back-to-School Discounts” and having the best deals for summer discount tickets. Our Great America ticket prices were $22.99 less than the gate price! http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/2012/place-backtoschool-discounts-local-credit-union Nerdwallet’s website is chock-full of financial tips, deals and comparison-shopping research. Their info is also featured on the online sites of Money Magazine and the New York Times!

Yours truly offers money-saving advice for an article featured in the September issue of Women Magazine (it is the one with everyone’s favorite dancing Packer player, Donald Driver, and his family gracing the cover). Pick up your copy or venture to the online version http://mywomenmagazine.com/sections/mind/250-practical-savings-tips-sep2012.html and read “Practical Savings Tips” in the Mind section.

Have you seen them? Members of the Unison family have been out and about taking part in community events. Clear blue skies and the sun smiled on us during the Annual Walk for Suicide Awareness in Kaukauna on September 8th. The conditions were absolutely perfect for face painting and kids crafts at the Kaukauna Farmers Market Fall Fest as well as a little competition action at the Luke the Duke Kickball Tournament on September 15th.  The “Unison One Kick Wonders” teams made their kickball debut and placed 4th and 8th. Despite the sore and stiff muscles that followed, the “One Kick Wonders” are already talking strategy for next year!

Do you know what else combines honking horns and strategy…car buying. Unison bloggers I will need your help and support. It seems I suffer from Motorspendophobia, a fear of shopping for and purchasing a different car. There are so many questions that should be answered to start: new or used; what kind of car offers me the best fuel efficiency; go with a dealership or try online, what is my budget; which one can handle my size needs; will Dingo, Rex and other furry friends fit; manual or automatic; silver vs. burnt orange; sell or trade-in? Eeekkkk!

Unison Auto Buying Center to the rescue! This section on our website http://www.unisoncu.org/resource-center/auto-buying-center.aspx is a one-stop-shop of information and is a fantastic resource for those of us in the market for a vehicle. Auto loan rates, a payment calculator, buyers guides, purchasing advice, program discount info and a loan application are listed or have a link. Our current loan rates are updated regularly and can always be found on the left side of your screen in the blue box. Use the link to the auto loan calculators to determine payment amounts, if it cost-effective to buy vs. lease or would opting for a rebate be better than low-interest financing. (There are over 50 other calculators on that page so allow for extra time because you’ll end up playing with all of them!) Invest in America is a unique program between GM, Chrysler and participating credit unions, such as Unison, to offer discounts on new American-made vehicles for eligible Unison members. To help you decide if a new car is a better option than used, links to the Federal Trade Commissions Facts for Consumers gives advice and helps you understand what to look for in a vehicle Buyers Guide.

Once I reviewed, highlighted, circled and underlined all the relevant information, I came up with a few steps to help with my car buying strategy:

Step #1: Consider how much I can realistically afford, how much I can put towards a down payment and what loan amount would I qualify for. Once I answer those questions I can confidently move on to the next step.

Step #2: Research vehicles and make a list of the top 5 I could shop for.

Step #3: Evaluate dealerships and online buying options.

Step #4: Print a map of places to stop and shop for my potential new car, apply my ready-for-battle face paint, pick up a quadruple espresso shot jumbo caramel non-fat latte along the way and grab a friend who is intimidating and a good negotiator to take with me on as I conquer my Motorspendophobia.

Wish me and other car buyers luck and please feel free to send any tips or advice!

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