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Money Tips & More
Financial Planning Month
September 26, 2018
In honor of Financial Planning Month, check out these three tips
October is Financial Planning Month, and the timing couldn’t be better. After all, the holidays are coming and Halloween before that, meaning we’ve got money, tricks, and treats on our minds! In honor of Financial Planning Month, here’s a little advice on how you can start this season off on the right foot (and more money in your pocket):
1. The hustle is real (and the financial perks can be, too)
Everyone has something they’re good at. Whether you have a proclivity toward classic literature, you are adept at explaining things, or you can knit a mean sweater, the trick to having a talent is to find a way to monetize it! Tutor at a local organization like Tutor Doctor or teach a fitness class at one of the area’s gyms. Put those sweaters up on Etsy! And, if you aren’t certain where your lucrative talents lie, take advantage of giving your opinion. That’s right—you can get paid to share your thoughts thanks to various survey sites like Survey Club and Survey Junkie. These sites allow you the ability to make up to $10 per round of short survey questions. Read, click, and watch the money pile up!
2. Invest now [even if it’s just a little at a time]
“Investing” can feel like a daunting term, but that’s only because we apply huge sums to the notion. It turns out that small, consistent investments done right now almost always win out over a huge investment 10 years from now. After all, we have no way to know where we’ll be in 10 years! In the spirit of a smarter take on living in the present, consider this: If you invest just $100 per month now over 10 years with a 15% return, you’d have $24,770 in 10 years. That’s your investment—doubled! Investment apps like Acorns are a great solution to test the investment waters. This mobile app is free to download and lets you invest as little as a penny at a time. It rounds up your purchases and invests your money when $5 is reached across 7k stocks and bonds, all with a seriously reduced risk. Use that spare change for good instead of letting it sit in between your couch cushions!
If you’re thinking of investing a bit more to see that long-term growth (remember: no time like now!), check out our investment account options at RiverFall Credit Union.
3. Don’t spend what you don’t have
This is better known as “living within your means.” One of the easiest/hardest financial lessons to learn is not to live off of credit cards. But—that’s a paradox, you might say. Here’s why it’s both easy and hard: In theory it’s super easy NOT to buy the thing you can’t afford at this point in time. You just choose not to buy it. But with credit cards and other debt instruments so readily available to finance your dream car, boat, house, red-bottomed shoes you’ve wanted for forever, etc., you may think, “Why the heck not? I’ll pay it off later!” It’s almost always better in the long run to pay in cash, of course, but should you choose to use a credit card, pay it off in full and ON TIME!
While none of these ideas is going to necessarily make you rich, these tips are a great way to take charge of your financial future without shaking up your life too much. For more money matters, speak to one of our knowledgeable team members in person.
Game Day on a Budget
September 26, 2018
Tailgating on the quad is quintessential Bama. Crimson and white as far as the eye can see. Folks being neighborly, offering up their hot dogs and ice-cold beverages to fellow fans even if they don’t know them from Adam. Enthusiastic “Roll Tides” hollered among every man, woman, and child. Game Day in Tuscaloosa is next-level, but if you’ve got a budget to adhere to, it can be tempting to miss the shenanigans in lieu of a low-key view from your tv at home. Before you decide to miss the tailgate festivities, know that you can cut those football-centric celebratory costs down with these simple steps.
Don’t be a hero!
Even Tua had help from the rest of the Crimson Tide during the National Title game! Rather than trying to take everything on by yourself—round up your home team and delegate. Assign duties to each person: someone takes care of the napkins, cups, plates; someone else is in charge of the drinks; and someone else handles the food. Divide, conquer, and get ready to cheer on the Tide!
Get back to basics
The term “tailgating” comes from the age-old tradition of having a parking lot party from the back of a truck. The old-school way included a truck, a cooler full of thirst-quenching beverages, and easy-to-transport snacks. While you can’t exactly roll a truck up onto the quad, you can take strides to simplify your tailgate setup. Rather than doing a Kardashian tailgate effort with bells, whistles, and big screen TVs, get back to basics with a trusty shade-giving tent, a few chairs, and a table to lay out those tasty treats. And don’t worry about catered food—homemade snacks like your mom’s awesome pimento cheese or your Aunt Pam’s trail mix are great options for quelling a snack attack. Not a cook? Go with the ultimate affordable fan favorite: Publix Fried Chicken.
Work your legs
Parking on Game Day can take your wallet to new lows. $20, $30, and even $40 may get you a little closer to the stadium, but it won’t do your cashflow any favors! Consider parking further away and then rolling with the Crimson Tide shuttle to get you right up to all the action. Or, turn those football Saturdays into a great way to get your steps up! Park a little further out, save your hard-earned dollars, and maybe even get a little cardio going on Game Day!
Strategize your entertainment
If your tailgate tent is the epicenter for pregame entertainment but you’re looking to save a few bucks, go with simplified, inexpensive options for fun. A deck of cards and/or a package of Solo Cups are cheap, multi-purpose fun facilitators. And before you go rushing out to purchase cornhole boards, ASK AROUND your friend group to see if you can borrow them from a member of your squad. You’re almost guaranteed to know someone who has the beanbag classic, and you can always offer access to your awesome array of snack and drinks in exchange for letting you use the game. After all, Crimson Tide fans ought to stick together!
Really Need That Brand New Car?
September 24, 2018
Do you really need a brand-new car after college?
As we finish up college and lock down our first forays into adulthood with the long-awaited J O B, we often think of what it’d be like to have some sweet new wheels to accompany our newfound grown-up status. A bunch of our friends have purchased hot, new rides—and I mean, how bad could a low monthly payment really be?
But here’s the thing: You don’t need that new car. You just want one. Maybe you even deserve one.
Trust me, you’re better off riding yours until the wheels fall off.
It’s super easy to believe the hype. The people in the commercials look SO happy, and all the technology is pretty enticing. Lane-keeping assist! Sleek digital cockpits that look like they’re from space! Interfaces that allow you to voice-command your car! Still, if you’re current vehicle is running just fine, remember, all of these things will be there (and will probably have improved even more) by the time it’s actually time for you to get a new vehicle.
Here’s the real deal: The average new car costs $32,086, not including accrued interest at the end of your loan term. For that price tag, you could pay down your student loans, invest it in the stock market for the next 30 years, and turn it into a whopping $559,881.52 at a 10% return OR even use it to purchase your first real estate investment property. That’s right—real estate; as in, a house you can LIVE IN. This is more awesome than a car, truck, or SUV—believe me.
The main point is that if you hold off now on that shiny, new ride, you’ll actually have options to start your path to becoming wealthy, debt-free, or both.
And while all the bells and whistles of a new whip are cool, can we TALK ABOUT the unbelievable amount of depreciation your auto experiences just as soon as your roll off of the car lot feeling that oh-so-temporary rush of pride and new car smell. The endorphin boost AND the new car smell are guaranteed to wear off once you’ve realized you’re locked in to paying that ride off (ahem, that ride you can’t live in) over the next six years.
When it comes to post-grad purchases, a brand new car simply isn’t a smart move. After all, you can always buy that ride later in life when you are wealthy and the cost isn’t more than your total net worth. Consider the car, truck, or SUV you have now as a smart financial opportunity, treat it right with regular maintenance, and ride it out until the time is really right.
If you’re interested in starting to make some smart financial decisions right now (like opening a savings or investment account—both with some legit returns later on down the road of life with NO depreciation), reach out to our knowledgeable RiverFall Credit Union team here.
It Pays to Give Back to your Local Community
September 24, 2018
In the Tuscaloosa community, we have a tradition of working together—of giving back. Whether it was boots on the ground and hands rebuilding our town after tornadoes ripped through the area in 2011, local charities like Nick’s Kids that bolster the lives of children throughout Alabama and the Southeast, or the West Alabama Food Bank feedings thousands throughout our six surrounding counties, our corner of the world believes in helping one another.
While it feels good to do for others, there are other significant benefits to giving back to the local community. Here are four reasons it really pays to give back:
- Giving back on an individual level—think tutoring someone or volunteering with the Big Brother/Big Sister program—can actually be good for your health. Studies have shown that volunteer work can decrease stress and even help regulate your sleep schedule. In addition, charitable works on this level promote new social interactions and experiences, which can in turn create good vibes all around!
- Giving back can be good for business. While the real reason anyone participates in philanthropic endeavors tends to be for the good of the community he/she serves, there are also some tangible benefits to donating your resources to a worthy cause. If you donate enough money—whether as a business or as an individual—you’ll be able to write that donation off when tax time comes around.
- Giving back gets your name out there! If you own a small business, partnering with a local charity—as RiverFall Credit Union does each year with Relay For Life fundraising—can be an excellent way to do good for your community while giving yourself some good publicity. Studies show that people prefer to engage with organizations who are dedicated to giving back, so whether it’s your time, resources, or money, it’s beneficial to a wealth of folks to partner up with a local charity for a common good!
- Giving back can open up a world of new opportunities for you! As you connect with others during your volunteer efforts, you may discover brand new chances to network, which can open up new avenues to job openings and other career boosts. Looking to make a job change? You can parlay the experience you gain at each volunteer effort into real-world job skills—after all, donating your time to a cause or initiative can certainly be construed as work. In addition, those who volunteer are typically viewed as well-rounded individuals who are invested in the world around them. That makes you an even more attractive candidate for that dream job.
To learn more about RiverFall’s dedication to the local community, watch our video!
Safeguard your credit card while traveling
August 9, 2018
Whether you prefer the lake or the ocean, the mountains or the beach, exploring abroad or in the good ol’ U S of A, vacation getaways are all about relaxing and letting go of that daily hustle and bustle. Still, in the process of getting away from it all, you never want to have your money get away from you! According to creditcards.com, an identity fraud report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research showed that lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks, credit and debit cards make up for 43 percent of all fraud cases where the individual knew how their information was taken.
To keep your vacation full of respite and fraud-free, check out these critical tips:
1. Leave some of those credit cards at home
Not all of your credit cards should accompany you on your summer vacay. You should only bring one or two credit cards, and you should only ever have one on your person when you’re not in your hotel room. This way, you only have to make a single phone call in the event that the single card be lost or stolen. In addition, it’s MUCH easier to keep up with one single card than a bunch of them, and it’s easier to tell when that single card turns up missing versus reaching your hand in your wallet and having to thumb through a large stack of plastic. Traveling light, as they say, is the only way to fly.
2. Keep a close eye on your card
When traveling, it’s important to be even more diligent about where your belongings are at ALL times. Avoid leaving your purse or bag slug off the back of a beach chair or barstool, and keep you wallet tucked deep within your pocket if you aren’t carrying a bag (avoid any peek-outs). While on your vacation, always know where your card is—meaning, keep a visual on even restaurant servers when they take your card to run it for the meal. Credit card skimmers are real and often really stealthy, so your watchful eye can make all the difference.
3. Stick with credit cards for all vacation purchases
Did you know that debit cards are 1) easier to steal and 2) easier to clone than credit cards? Protections against theft and fraud for credit cards are much more extensive than for debit cards, meaning your funds are much harder to hack into when using a credit card. And if your credit card is jacked, you’re only liable for a $50 max, whereas debit card fraud can result in your being liable for as much as $500 after just two days. What’s worse is that with debit cards, you can be liable FOR EVERYTHING after 60 days of detecting fraudulent activity.
Even if you report the fraud right away, the money you use to pay your bills is in jeopardy if your debit card is stolen, sticking you in a financial bind until the issue is resolved. Nobody wants to suffer the insult of missing a mortgage or car payment on top of the injury of having your personal financial info stolen.
4. Check your account activity often
This is the only way to know whether someone besides yourself is making charges to your card. Even if you can see you card in plain sight, this will help you see if your card was skimmed by one of those number scanning scoundrels. You can check your balance online on a secure network, but always make certain you log off of your online bank account info immediately when you’re finished checking your statement. If you’d prefer, you can always check your balance via a quick telephone call and even hear a list of recent charges to effectively track your spending activity.
5. Utilize those text alerts
Activate text alerts on your credit cards when traveling so that when anything posts on your account, you immediately receive a text message letting you know the activity has occurred. While the phone’s buzzing might be a bit of a nuisance as you globetrot, those mildly inconvenient alerts can save your account big time in the long run.
6. Hotel safes exist for a reason [and a good one!]
If you’re not bringing your credit card with you during your vacation adventures, lock it up in your hotel room safe. If your hotel doesn’t have a safe, it’s probably a clear indication you shouldn’t be leaving your card there!
5 Tips for talking to your kids about money
August 9, 2018
Talking to your kids about money can feel sort of—awkward. In fact, after the “birds and the bees” talk, the money discussion is probably the next toughest talk to have with the kiddos. How much do you divulge? How do you avoid scaring them? What exactly do they need to know? Before you plan out a three-hour Power Point presentation that would put Dave Ramsey to sleep, check out our 5 top tips to talking money with the kids:
1. Consider your audience.
As your children grow, the level of detail needed when discussing financial insight will change. There’s no need to get into Roth IRA lectures or savings account reviews with your 10-year-old. Simply answer their questions as they arise. You may be surprised by what they already know! The most important aspect of talking money (and really talking about any subject) with your children is to appear willing and open to answering any of their specific questions. Once they notice the floor is open, they’re much more likely to come to you with exactly what’s on their mind.
2. Keep it real.
If you wish you would’ve tucked more money away before heading off to college or you regret buying a brand new car over a used one, let your kids in on the real deal. Instead of burying your financial failures, share them honestly to create a teachable moment. If you ran up some gnarly debt with that Target card back in the day and had some trouble paying it back, tell your child about how that happened and what you could’ve done to prevent it. They’ll appreciate your candidness and learn a valuable lesson about overspending in the process.
3. Talk concepts and good sense rather than actual dollars and cents.
You don’t have to divulge what’s in your bank account or share the figures involved with your monthly bills to get your point across. In fact, rather than overwhelming your child with dollar amounts, be ready to discuss financial concepts like saving money, budgeting, paying down debt, and even philanthropic giving.
Another way to get them in the habit of budgeting can even involve their favorite accessory: their smartphone. Have teens download the EveryDollar app to track their spending habits and see just how far their dollar is actually going. This app will even alert them when they’ve dropped more money than usual on shopping trips or dining out. Practice makes perfect, and the EveryDollar app makes it super easy to see how he/she is spending in real-time.
4. Create attainable goals the whole family can get in on.
If the whole crew has been itching to get down to Disney for an epic family getaway, make it a family-wide effort to save up for the trip. This doesn’t mean your five-year-old will have to run out and get a job; rather, you can have family meetings to come up with smart ways to reach your goal. Have a money meeting to talk through going out to eat less and then saving those dollars up for the trip. Or perhaps open the floor to your teens to see what creative solutions they can help you come up with. By involving the whole brood, your children will feel serious pride in contributing to an exciting end goal all while honing their critical thinking/problem-solving abilities.
5. Learn together.
It’s ok if you yourself don’t totally “get” Roth IRAs or mutual funds. Again, be real with what you know and don’t know, and make it a point to learn about these more complex elements of the financial world right alongside your kids! Schedule some time with one of our knowledgeable team members to talk through the more nuanced money topics—and bring your teen along for the learning experience! You’ll clock some quality time while learning important financial facts as a family.
Remember, keep it real and keep it simple! To find more help in discussing money matters with your kiddos, reach out to one of our friendly RiverFall team members today.
Wallet-friendly lunch options in T-town
July 6, 2018
Lunch is designed to be that hour-long break from the daily grind—a time when you can refuel and find a moment of respite from deadlines and conference calls. Though packing your lunch is always the most wallet-conscious option for your midday meal, sometimes you’ve just gotta get out! Before you hit the drive-thru line, consider one of these four tried and true, deeply local lunch options perfect for grabbing a bite without breaking the bank:
1. Pork Sandwich from Archibald’s BBQ - $6.25
Succulent pulled pork on pillowy soft white bread will forever be a Deep South staple. Top that off with Archibald’s spicy bright orange sauce and you’ve got vittles that pack a serious punch!
2. Jalapenos Mexican Grill 3 Tacos - $5.99
Chicken or beef, hard or soft shell—you really can’t go wrong with a tasty trip to any Jalapenos location (T-Town or Northport). Make your Tuesday totally taco-centric with these perfectly seasoned authentic handhelds. Bonus points for excellent service and unlimited chips and salsa.
3. City Café’s 3 Veggies + Meat - $6.30
Long known as the spot for getting an epic omelet and cathead biscuits like yo’ momma makes ‘em, City Café is no slouch when it comes to lunch. You can load up on three homestyle veggies from field peas to fried okra and macaroni salad to French fries and select a from-scratch protein like the practically famous chicken and dumplings or crispy-fried catfish fingers. Fun fact: At City Café, you can count the cobbler of the day as “a veggie” for a truly multi-course meal.
4. Rama Jama Cheeseburger, Fries, and a Coke - $7.58
If you love a good burger as much as you love the Tide, this is the lunch spot for you. While you nosh on the area’s number one burger, you’re surrounded by the number one college football team in the nation’s memorabilia. Juicy burgers and Bama pride is always a winning combo.
Tips for a stress-free wedding budget
July 6, 2018
Establish a stress-free wedding budget with these 3 simple suggestions!
If you’re engaged, you’ve probably been privy to a lot of unsolicited commentary about “how stressful” the planning will be. You’ll likely hear horror stories from brides or grooms who have come before you. All of your “friends” will recant what went wrong with their flowers or how the gluten-free cake was too dry. Here’s some advice for all that naysaying: Tune it out! Moreover, take it from your neighborhood resource for financial advice—a wedding doesn’t have to have so much stressful buildup! With the happiest day of your life before you, you can make the whole thing so much easier on yourself with smart budgeting from the outset. Here are our three tips to keeping the budget side of wedding planning totally painless:
1. Know who’s paying for what up front
While it’s tradition for the bride’s family to pick up the tab for the wedding, there’s no hard and fast rule about who will foot the bill. Have an open discussion about who is going to pay for what right away. For some couples, it may be in the best interest of all involved to have the discussion with each family separately. Keep it productive by determining an initial budget early.
A few helpful guidelines include:
- Ask both sets of folks to commit a specific dollar amount, and add up those contributions to come up with your budget OR consider asking each set of parents to pay for a particular aspect of the festivities (maybe the bride’s parents pay for the wedding ceremony, but the groom’s people pay for the honeymoon)
- Decide how much you and your soon-to-be spouse are able to contribute
- Keep lines of communication open and honest along the way. Talking about money can be tough, but setting realistic expectations and expressing them clearly can take the guesswork out of who’s ponying up for what
2. Know what you need to spend in order to attain your #weddinggoals
Like any major purchase, take time to assess just how much it will cost to have what you want. Depending on your preferences and budget, you’ll want to determine which aspects you’ll splurge (and save) on. According to a study from 2017, the average wedding costs around $33k—before the honeymoon.
Put your mind at ease by planning to allot 5% of your total budget to a “just-in-case” fund. This will be a preemptive strike against any unforeseen costs. From there, know that the biggest expenses for weddings tend to be the reception (at around half the budget being dedicated to the party that celebrates your union!) followed by photography (10-12%), flowers (8-10%), entertainment/music (8-10%), and tuxes/dresses/accessories (8-10%). The rest of the budget will be dedicated to things like the ceremony, stationery, wedding rings, transportation, and even gifts for the wedding party.
Remember, there are always DIY options when it comes to crafting the wedding décor and buying certain things in bulk (think champagne, napkins, etc.) can result in some sweet discounts taken right off the top.
3. Know how much you should save for the big day
As soon as you pop the question (or say yes!), begin allotting as much of your earnings as possible to the wedding fund. Saving 20% of your monthly take-home is typically the optimal goal, and while that figure may seem overwhelming, it is absolute doable with a few simple tweaks to your everyday spending. For instance, swap that Starbucks run for a fresh pot of coffee at home, or ditch the spendy workout classes in lieu of going for a run or locking down a gym membership at a cost-friendly, all-encompassing facility like the local YMCA. Even limiting the amount you drop on lunches each week can impact your ability to save in a major way!
For even more effective options to tuck away money for the big day, consult one of our RiverFall financial experts by calling 205.759.1505 today!
2018 Scholarship Winners Announced
April 17, 2018
Congratulations to the folllowing winners of RiverFall scholarships:
Amber Hinton, Hillcrest High School
Jordan Nicole Moore, Central High School
These outstanding high school seniors have each been selected to receive $2,500 in college scholarship funds from RCU. We are very proud of these members of our credit union family. We would aslo like to take the opportunity to thank all who applied and to all of our 2018 graduates, we wish you the best!