Three Ways to Achieve a More Fiscally Fit You in 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 28, 2011

Contact:   Lynn Heider
               503.350.2225
               503.358.0773 (mobile)
Contact:   David Bennett
               206.340.4828
               425.221.1237 (mobile)

FEDERAL WAY, WA; BEAVERTON, OR:–The 2011 holiday shopping season saw an improvement over recent years, a sign that the U.S. economy may be on the upswing. As the nation resolves to become more financially healthy in the coming year, becoming a more fiscally fit you may be a bigger challenge. But don’t worry, you can do it. Developing a thoughtful, deliberate financial strategy for the New Year isn’t as difficult as some imagine it to be.

While joining a credit union is a good first start, your efforts should only begin there. Three additional ways to become a more fiscally fit you in 2012 are managing your credit card effectively, shopping sales for cars and rates, and taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates.

Manage your credit card, don’t let it manage you.
Everyone uses plastic. Exercise credit card discipline in 2012 by creating a monthly budget and sticking to it. If your financial institution is zinging you with sky-high interest rates and fees, switch.

The influx of deposits at credit unions will prompt some to offer beginning-of-the-year balance transfer promotions that allow members to reduce their interest rate; potentially saving the consumer hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest payments.

Federal regulators mandate that credit unions balance their books by lending a certain percentage of their assets back to their community, so when deposits rise, lending must also rise. To expedite this balancing act, credit unions will sometimes offer to their membership low-interest, promotional interest rates on transferred credit card balances.

For consumers this means one thing: saving money. Find a credit union with a good promotional interest rate on credit card balance transfers, check your membership eligibility and join. It takes just a few minutes and your wallet will thank you.

Shop sales for the best auto rates and promos.
Many people have been putting off swapping out their old car for a later model. This year will be a great time to take advantage of better than reasonable auto financing at credit unions. For the same reason many will offer great credit card balance transfer promotions, credit unions will roll out a number of new and used auto financing promotions.

Credit unions partner with auto dealers around the Northwest to offer great rates and unparalleled service to their members. If you need an auto-finder service, it’s likely that your credit union can recommend one.

Loan pre-approval can be an advantage if you enjoy shopping lots on your own. Knowing what you are qualified for before you visit the car lot can help you avoid unnecessary hassles.

If you already have your car financed through another financial institution, consider transferring the remaining loan balance to a lower rate.

According to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), as five-year new-car loans at banks were carrying an average interest rate of 5.1 percent in September, credit unions were quoting 3.73 percent.

Take advantage of historically low mortgage rates.
If you own a home and have not refinanced in the past two years, the chances are good that you can save money by refinancing with your credit union. Home prices continue to drop and qualifying for a refinance may be more difficult because of valuation.

Here are two tips to help you get over the valuation hurdle:

  1. Refinance only to the amount of your current indebtedness.
  2. If your income allows it, consider reducing your loan term to 20 or even 15 years. You may get an even more attractive rate and pay off your debt even faster.

If you want or need to sell your home this year, be realistic. Home prices are dropping, which makes it easy to stubbornly cling to the price you felt your home was worth even a year ago. No one wants to admit they are losing money, but you will be money ahead if you price your home to current market conditions, rather than continue to pay expenses as it withers on the market for months or even years. Even if you do find a willing buyer, the home must appraise at the sale price or the sale will fail anyway. Let reality be your guide.

As you take further control of your financial life in 2012, remember to involve your credit union. Credit unions are unequalled by any other business community in their ability to serve their members. Providing services to help members achieve financial success is part of that.

There are benefits to being a credit union member. Learn what yours are and then take advantage of them.

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The Northwest Credit Union Association is the not-for-profit trade association serving 168 credit unions in Oregon and Washington and their 4.1 million members. The NWCUA is the voice of the Northwest credit union movement, providing legislative, regulatory and public advocacy in addition to education, compliance, networking support and business solutions to its members. Learn more about credit unions at asmarterchoice.org.

Click here to download a copy of the press release.

Posted in Compliance, NCUA.