Testimonials

father throwing child into the air
father throwing child into the air

Testimonials

United Community Credit Union has a great story to tell, but we want our members to share it.

 

What do you love about us? How have we been able to help you accomplish your goals? We want to hear from you.

 

Share your stories with us so we can share them with current and potential members. The first 10 people to respond will each win a $10 Visa gift card, and one lucky respondant will win $100!*

*Promotion can be changed at any time. See credit union for details. Federally insured by NCUA. 

Scholarship

In-crowd shot during graduation
In-crowd shot during graduation

Scholarship

young girl laying on the grass smiling
Get more money for college tuition with a United Community scholarship.

We know college is expensive, but United Community wants to help you with the costs associated with higher education.

In 2020, United Community will be awarding three graduating seniors with scholarships. One graduating senior will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship and two graduating seniors will be awarded with a $500 scholarship.*

Applications will be accepted from January 1 through March 31.

*Must be a member to qualify. See credit union for details.

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

Beautiful Christmas holiday gift shopping background. View from above with copy space. Element for design
Beautiful Christmas holiday gift shopping background. View from above with copy space. Element for design

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift-giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store.

 

So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone without breaking the bank? We have a few tips for you to keep your trees and your wallets full.

Make a List, Check It Twice

Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for us! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances

Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without breaking the bank.

Homemade From The Heart

While there are many options to choose from at one store or another, the best gifts sometimes don’t come from the store. Another way you could save some money on presents this season is by making your loved one(s) a gift. The possibilities are endless on what you can make. Often times, a gift that is handmade from the heart is priceless and more special. If you need some inspiration on what to make, check out Pinterest opens in a new window for a few ideas.

Keep It Local

Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save money by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up his profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. For example, every $100 you spend at a local business, $68 stays in the community. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what area businesses are offering locally made products.

 

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your everyday expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which come with incredibly high-interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without spending more.

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what options we have to help you.

Holiday Savings Guide

lady in santa hat opening up presents by a christmas tree
lady in santa hat opening up presents by a christmas tree

Holiday Savings Guide

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift-giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store.

 

So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone without breaking the bank? Check out our Holiday Savings Guide for tips and tricks to keep your trees and your wallets full. Simply click the image below to download your Holiday Savings Guide! 

4 Tips to Jumpstart Retirement Planning

Surfer guy happy with surf surfing smiling doing hawaiian shaka hand sign for fun during surf session in ocean waves on beach vacation. Surfing travel destination. Friendly greeting in surfer culture.
Surfer guy happy with surf surfing smiling doing hawaiian shaka hand sign for fun during surf session in ocean waves on beach vacation. Surfing travel destination. Friendly greeting in surfer culture.

4 Tips to Jumpstart Retirement Planning

Retirement. It seems like a lifetime away, right? Probably something you plan to worry about when you’re a little closer to your retirement date. However, financial experts suggest that the best time to start planning is in your 20s when you typically start earning a steady paycheck.

 

To put it into perspective, if you start saving at 25 and put away $3,000 a year for 10 years, by the time you reach 65, your $30,000 investment could grow to more than $338,000.* Regardless of your retirement date, it’s never too early to start planning for your retirement opens in a new window. You may be asking, “Where is the best place to start?” and “How should I invest my money to maximize the returns I see at retirement?” Both of these are great questions that we will delve into on this post.

Set your goals

This applies to 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and 40-somethings. How do you know what steps to take if you don’t know where you’re going?

Sit down and figure out your goals. Do you want to buy a house one day? How long do you need to rent and save money? What “bad debt” do you need to pay off now to help you in the long run? These answers may change as life circumstances change, but it’s helpful to know what your goals are and create a plan to achieve them before you set out on your savings adventure.

Take advantage of your employee benefits

Does your company offer a retirement savings account? Most full-time jobs will offer either a 401(k) or a SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees Individual Retirement Account). It’s important to understand what these accounts are, how they work, and whether or not it’s a viable option for you. What’s the difference in a 401(k) and a SIMPLE IRA?

 

A 401(k) is an investment account you make contributions to out of each paycheck. If your employer matches your contribution up to a certain percentage, that’s free money going into your 401(k) in addition to the contributions you’re making.

 

A SIMPLE IRA is a tax-deferred employer-provided retirement plan. Like a 401(k), you make pre-tax contributions from your paycheck, and your employer can also elect to match your contributions up to a certain percentage. Unlike a ROTH IRA, when you reach retirement age and begin drawing from the SIMPLE IRA, you will pay taxes on the money you’ve saved.

Good debt vs. bad debt

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as good debt. Debt to buy a home or to start a business is considered good debt as it can be used as collateral. To our 20-somethings, listen up! Consumer debt – credit cards, car loans, and student loans – are always bad. Most consumer debt comes with high-interest rates, which only hurt you as you get older.

 

No matter what age you are, the best thing you can do is to avoid buying things you can’t afford. But, if you have debt or need to go into debt for a major purchase, have a plan to get out of that debt promptly. Look for places in your monthly budget where you can reduce spending and cut unnecessary costs.

Check out debt consolidation and refinancing options

Consolidating debt and refinancing loans are two great ways to save money on your monthly payments. Debt consolidation is typically used for unsecured debt and is especially effective for high-interest debt like credit cards, while refinancing a loan enables borrowers to “redo” an existing loan to get a lower monthly payment, different term length or a more convenient payment structure.

 

Both options are a great way of saving money each month. Ideally, you’d be able to measure the savings you’re seeing and put that toward your retirement planning. It might not sound like a lot of money, but even if you were able to save $50 a month, at the end of a year you’d have $600 to put toward your retirement.

 

Do you have debt that can be consolidated? Do you have loans that can be refinanced? You never know what your options are until you ask. Check with someone at our branch to see if we can save you some money each month to put toward your retirement.

 

Truth is, there are a dozen different ways you can prepare for retirement early and start saving money. You just have to find the ways that work for you.

Don’t Let High APR’s Hold You Hostage

guy purchasing something at a restaurant with a credit card
guy purchasing something at a restaurant with a credit card

Don’t Let High APR’s Hold You Hostage

Actor Hill Harper said it perfectly: “Credit card interest payments are the dumbest money of all.”

This year wasn’t kind to credit cardholders’ wallets. In 2019, cardholders paid an average of 17% APR – the highest level recorded by the Federal Reserve since 1994. To put it into perspective: in 2009, the average APR registered just under 13% and in 2016 it hovered around 12.5%.

(See chart below)

credit karma chart showing apr rates

Even the maximum APR has climbed significantly. Financial institutions typically over a wide range of APRs. As a result of the increase, maximum APRs are around 25% with the media standing at 21%.

So, what does this mean for you?

Well, it means you’re likely paying more in interest than you’ve ever paid. But, don’t worry. There are several ways around paying high interest rates that will actually help you in the long run.

Avoid balance carryover

Ultimately, the best and most responsible way to use a credit card is to pay off the balance monthly. By paying your balance in full each month, you avoid paying interest while reaping the benefits a credit card has to offer. Plus, it helps improve your credit score.

Avoid spending more than you have

We’ve all done it. We have a credit card for emergencies only, but something comes up we really want, and it finds its way to the credit card. Next thing you know, there are multiple unnecessary purchases on there that you’re trying to pay off. The best habit to get into is not spending more than you can pay off monthly. The more you put on a card, the more interest you’re going to be charged.

Do your research

If you’re thinking about signing up for a credit card, do your research. First of all, know your credit score. That’s going to be a huge factor in determining your APR. Also, consider why you want a credit card. Are you looking for cash back options? Do you want to earn points or airline miles? Don’t wander and apply aimlessly. Look at the specific types of cards that are designed for the purpose you want and see which card best suits your needs.

Obtaining and maintaining credit by using credit cards doesn’t have to be a scary experience. Have you talked to someone at United Community Credit Union? We have several types of credit cards that could fit your needs.

Before you go with a big box bank, talk to us and see how we can help. Stop by a branch or call us today.

4 Hacks to Raise Your Credit Score

credit card
credit card

4 Hacks to Raise Your Credit Score

Your credit score. Chances are you either love it or hate it. It’s either the greatest thing in the world or a total hindrance.

Or, maybe you don’t really know enough about your credit score for it to make an impact on your life.

 

As a whole, Americans’ credit scores are beginning to increase opens in a new window but our knowledge of credit and how it works is declining. A recent survey from credit scoring company VantageScore and the Consumer Federation of America found that 32% of the people surveyed didn’t know they had more than one credit score. That percentage has risen by about 16% since 2012.

Let’s forget about how many credit scores we have for a second and answer a very basic question: what is your credit score?

Your credit score is a three-digit number ranging from 300 (the lowest possible score) to 850 (the highest score). Lenders use your credit score to make decisions about whether or not to offer you credit – such as a credit card, car loan or mortgage loan. Your credit score is also used to determine the terms of the offer – what your interest rate will be and whether or not you’ll have to make a down payment.

Your credit score is calculated by looking at these categories:

  • Payment history
  • Your income-to-debt ratio
  • Total debt
  • Length of credit history
  • Types of open credit
  • Public records (such as bankruptcy)
  • Number of inquiries for your credit report
  • New credit

So, what is considered a good credit score?

The average credit score opens in a new window in the United States ranges between 670 and 710. According to Experian, a “good” credit score is anything that falls between 661 and 780, which is about 38% of the population.

To put that into perspective, to qualify for an FHA mortgage loan, your credit score has to be a 580 or higher with a 3.5% down payment. Usually, if an applicant falls in that “good” credit range, they’re likely to be approved for credit at competitive rates.

Now that we know what a credit score is and what classifies as good one, the next question to look at is: why does your credit score matter?

Think of your credit score like a report card you used to get while you were in school. Your report card measured your progress during the school year, and your credit activity puts you into a scoring range. But, unlike grades, credit scores aren’t stored as part of your credit history. Instead, your score is generated each time you apply for credit. Fun fact: it actually negatively impacts your credit score if you have multiple inquiries in a short period of time.

What are your major financial goals? Buying a home? Buying a car? Chances are, your credit is likely going to be a factor in framing that financing picture. Your score will actually tell a lender whether or not you qualify for a loan and how good the terms of the loan will be. For instance, the lower your credit score is, the higher your interest rate on a car loan will be.

If you’ve looked at your credit report, and you’re surprised to see it’s lower than you thought, don’t worry.

There are simple ways to fix that.

  • Pay your bills on time. That goes for ALL your bills – not just credit cards and loans. Fun fact: payment history is the most heavily weighted factor of your credit score. It makes up 35% of your credit score.
  • Keep your credit card balances low. Credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score so keep those old accounts open even if you don’t use them.
  • Space out your credit applications. Each time you apply for a line of credit, the inquiry is noted on your credit report. One or two inquiries aren’t a huge deal, but when you have a bunch within a two-year period, it can cause your score to fall.
  • Mix up your credit. Your credit mix, or the types of credit accounts you have, accounts for 10% of your credit score. Basically, lenders want to see that you can use different types of credit responsibly.

Credit doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. There are many responsible ways to start out slowly and build worthwhile credit for the future. United Community Credit Union can help.

 

Are you looking for help building or establishing credit? We have a number of ways to start you on the right path. Let us help you! Stop by one of our branches today or give us a call to see what options we have.

How to Prepare for the Unexpected Expense

budgeting
budgeting

How to Prepare for the Unexpected Expense

We can’t avoid unexpected expenses. Life happens.

Question is, how prepared are you to deal with life’s unexpected curveballs?

There’s no way to predict when life will happen. One minute you’re looking at a little extra money in the budget and feeling good about the small surplus. The next minute your new puppy swallows part of a chew toy, and you’re off to the vet. There goes your small surplus and budget.

Life’s unexpected events can be overwhelming and figuring out how to handle the new debt plus the monthly recurring debt can be stressful.

What happens if your car breaks down, you have to move, or your water heater has to be replaced? Illness and employment are equally as unpredictable. If you are laid off, how long could you pay your bills without living off credit cards or borrowing money? You’re not alone. Did you know that 40 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 expense out of pocket?

So, what happens if you find yourself in this position? Believe it or not, you have a few options – smart, safe and legal options – to help cover those unexpected expenses.

Payment plans

Maybe haggling over a bill doesn’t come naturally to you, but this is a great way to save a little money each month. Most doctor’s offices and hospitals will work with you on payment plans as long as you are paying something on it each month. It’ll help show that you’re good for some of the balance now and can pay some later.

Avoid predatory lenders

Don’t let your circumstances make you feel like payday loans or predatory lenders are the only way out. Payday lenders prey on people who are vulnerable and in tight situations. In 2016, Google banned payday lenders from advertising on its site because of their predatory practices. They offer attractive offers, right? Lump-sum payment, a few weeks to pay it back – no sweat, right? Wrong. Most payday loan companies charge anywhere from $10 to $30 for every $100 borrowed which equates to an interest rate of almost 400%!

Beware of the credit card

Credit cards are definitely better than payday loans but are mindful of your interest rate on your card. If you’ve got a high-interest rate, you could be paying more in the long run if you don’t pay off the balance in full relatively soon. Also, if you’ve got a “no interest until” card, remember that while you’re not paying interest right now, if there is a balance on the card when the time period is up, your credit card company will retroactively add its interest rate to the amount left.

Get a personal loan

Even if your emergency doesn’t have a specific category, a personal loan can still be an option for you and the interest rate will oftentimes be much lower. Credit unions are a wealth of information and knowledge. They’re a really great resource for getting on the right track financially. They have who can help make sense of the best personal loan or the right credit card for you.

Our lending experts at United Community Credit Union can talk you through the loan options we have and help you obtain the one best suited for your needs. We’re here to help. Getting off track financially happens, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

Stop by our branch or call us at (217) 224-1093.

Building Blocks to Help Millennials Create a Financially Sound Future

finances
finances

Building Blocks to Help Millennials Create a Financially Sound Future

The Great Recession created a perfect storm for millennials.

It was the worst financial crisis the United States had seen since the Great Depression, and it left millennials playing catch-up with their finances in the hopes of someday being able to retire. But even as they fight to break to even, millennials continue to accrue debt.

 

In February, the New York Federal Reserve opens in a new window released a study showing that millennials have accumulated more than $1 trillion of debt including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and student loan debt. Additionally, Schwab’s 2019 Modern Wealth opens in a new window report, a May survey from Charles Schwab, revealed that 62 percent of millennials opens in a new window are living paycheck to paycheck while only 38 percent feel financially stable. Despite that statistic, millennials also say they spend nearly $500 a month in nonessential purchases.

 

While the statistics above look grim, there is still hope for millennials pursuing the “American Dream.” It is important to remember that paying off cars and credit cards, buying a home and working towards retirement are not impossible feats. Like everything else in life, finances are about balance and finding an approach that works for you opens in a new window.

Create a budget

Budgets are not “one size fits all,” and no two people will have the same budget or goals. First, find a strategy that balances rewarding life experiences and saving for the future. Be realistic when crafting your saving and spending goals. For example, you can’t expect to go immediately from saving nothing each month to saving away $400 a month. Start with a number that is easily attainable and increase the amount when it’s feasible.

Automate your finances

It’s easy for us to spend more than we save. The trick to overcoming that urge is to put our finances on autopilot. If your paycheck is set up on direct deposit, have a portion of it directly deposited into a savings account. Also, set up recurring transfers from your checking account into your savings account. Automatic bill pay is another great way to get ahead. Most credit unions offer bill pay to their members to pay monthly bills straight from their accounts. This ensures that bills are paid on time and you don’t have to remember to pay them!

Track your spending

How much money do you spend at Starbucks each month? How many Amazon boxes arrive at your door each week? Chances are, like most of us, you don’t keep track of a $5 purchase here or a $10 purchase there. Those small amounts begin to add up and they add up quickly. There are a number of apps – Mint, Quicken, and Twine – that aggregate your financial transactions and organize them by category so you can create and monitor a budget.

Avoid impulse purchases

Overspending is a common interference to achieving financial goals. The more we give in to unplanned or excessive purchases, the harder it is to save money or stick to a budget. Rather than caving to those impulse buys, implement new habits to help avoid those traps. Give yourself a waiting period for large purchases. During that waiting period, talk to someone – a friend, partner, or spouse who is financially sound – and get their opinion about the purchase before you pull the trigger.

Consider a side hustle

Part-time work is a great way to make a little extra money that helps trim down debt or pad a savings account. There are multiple ride share apps and food delivery apps that allow you to work when you want and as much as you want. If you have a particular skill set like writing or computer work, you can always look for ways to contract out those skills to make a little extra money.

Trim your monthly expenses

Do you have a gym membership you never use? Are you paying for cable you barely watch? Does GrubHub make regular deliveries to your place? The average millennial spends more than $500 a month in nonessential purchases. Look at your budget and see where you can trim items. Replace cable with a streaming service. Make dinner at home. Get rid of that gym membership you never use. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can build back your account by eliminating those unnecessary bills.

 

At United Community Credit Union, we offer our members a variety of services including financial planning and credit counseling. We want to help you find a way to save for your future in a way that also meets your immediate needs. Let us help you review your financial situation and find a path that gets you where you want to be.

 

Give us a call today! (217) 224-1093