Financial Education

Making the Most of America Saves Week 2021

Feb 19
2021
Woman taking the America Saves Week pledge

Idaho Central is excited to be participating in America Saves week again this year! America Saves Week (February 22 – February 26, 2021) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. Each year, we encourage savers – or potential savers – just like you to set a goal, makeRead more

Idaho Central is excited to be participating in America Saves week again this year! America Saves Week (February 22 – February 26, 2021) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. Each year, we encourage savers – or potential savers – just like you to set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically. So how can you make sure that you’re taking full advantage of America Saves week?

Take a Close Look at Your Finances

The first step to any great savings journey is to determine where you are at. Take some time this week to view your current finances. Do you have a great budget that you are following, or do you need to spend some time creating or fine-tuning it? Are you making the most of your loan payments, or could you be structuring them better to help save on interest and pay them down quicker? Are you saving anything at all, or is your savings account sitting empty?

Make a Clear Plan

Now that you know what your finances look like, it’s time to determine what exactly your goal and plan is. This could be anything from just saving a few dollars each week, to paying down as much of your debt as possible. Remember, paying down debt is saving! Not sure where to start? Come by any ICCU branch for a financial review. As a bonus, each branch will enter those who complete financial reviews into a drawing for $250! Simply sit down with one of our Financial Service Officers to create your plan and you’ll be entered to win!

Take the America Saves Pledge

Did you know that those with a savings plan are more likely to save for emergencies and retirement than those without one? The America Saves pledge is the framework that allows savers to set a goal and make a plan to achieve better financial stability. When you take the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save towards your goals.

Automate it

The easiest way to save is automatically. Many people do this by adjusting their direct deposit to put a portion into savings. However, setting up automatic savings with Idaho Central has never been easier! You can use eBranch to set up automatic transfers or even open a Central Cents savings account. With Central Cents, every time you swipe your debit card, the transaction will round up to the next dollar and put those cents into your savings account!

Are you ready to start on your path to save? Or pick up where you left off? You can contact us or visit us at any of our branches to learn more. Whether you are opening a new account, getting a financial review, or setting up an even easier way to save, we can help!

If you or a child is not a member of ICCU, open a savings account this week and set up a recurring deposit, and receive $30 with a waived $5 membership fee.

We look forward to seeing you this week and saving together!

Financial Education

Tips for Budgeting for a New Home

Feb 12
2021
Young couple moving into new home

Buying your dream home should be one of the most joyful events, and Idaho Central wants it to be that way. Although buying a home can be stressful at times, especially when it comes to the expenses that come along with it, taking the time to budget for a new home can save you fromRead more

Buying your dream home should be one of the most joyful events, and Idaho Central wants it to be that way. Although buying a home can be stressful at times, especially when it comes to the expenses that come along with it, taking the time to budget for a new home can save you from some of the stress, making buying your dream home a dream experience as well! So, how do you budget for a new home?

Calculate household income after tax

When you’re considering buying a new home, it’s important to calculate your household income after taxes first. Calculating your household income after taxes is the first step to not only budget for your dream home, but also for your day-to-day budget. Experts recommend that your cost for housing should account for no more than 25% of your monthly budget. Taking your household income after tax into consideration will help you determine just how much home you can afford, and give you a starting point to create your savings plan.

Calculate household expenses

After you calculate your household income after taxes, it’s time to calculate your expenses. Expenses include savings, food, utilities, transportation, health, recreation, personal spending, charitable donations, and more. While experts recommend 25% of household income for your housing expenses, it also needs to make sense with your other expenses. Setting up a budget can help you have a good grasp of what you typically spend each month, and what you can really afford for a mortgage payment.

Save for a deposit to avoid PMI

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is often required for mortgages that have less than a 20% down payment. PMI typically costs between 0.5% and 1% of the entire loan amount. If you are able to save for a down payment that allows you to avoid PMI, it will save you on a monthly basis. Avoiding PMI helps lower the monthly payment on your mortgage, so you’ll have more room in your budget for expenses or to put into savings.

Determine what you can afford

After calculating your income, budgeting for all of your monthly expenses, and following the 25% guideline, you will have a good idea of how much you can afford in a monthly payment. For example, if your monthly income after taxes is $1,000, you can afford $250 in monthly housing expenses. You can also use our Mortgage Qualifier Calculator to calculate how much of a purchase price you can afford based on your monthly payment. In addition to these resources, it is important to remember that housing expenses include more than just the mortgage payment. It also includes taxes, homeowner’s insurance, maintenance costs, homeowner’s association fees, and so forth. For example, if you can afford a $1,000 monthly housing payment, $850 might be for your mortgage (including principal, taxes, and insurance), $50 might be for your homeowner’s association fee (HOA), and $100 might be for any maintenance costs. Your realtor and loan officer will be able to assist you with this information as you shop for your dream home.

Get pre-approved

While these are some general tips on how to help you budget for your dream home, it’s still important to get officially pre-approved and see how much of a loan you are able to qualify for. By getting pre-approved, you will know how much you can afford and are approved for based on your actual financial situation, and you’ll be able to consider homes within that range.

Check your dream home

It’s important to remember to do your due diligence and investigate your new home. This includes hiring an appraiser and a home inspector. An appraiser will determine the value of the home and ensure that you are not paying more than it is worth. A home inspector will ensure that the foundation is sound, AC and furnace systems are functioning properly, and that the roof is safe. Some might even give you an estimated life expectancy. For example, if the inspection report shows that your roof has the potential of leaking very soon, it’s important to negotiate your purchase price so you can afford to get the roof replaced or require that it is repaired before you close on the home.

Using these tips can help give you confidence in navigating the process of purchasing your dream home while making it simpler for you. If you find you need assistance, we are here to help! Please reach out to one of our Mortgage Loan Officers to get your pre-approved mortgage loan and any questions you have answered. Happy house hunting!

Financial Education

5 Ways to Make Your Meetings More Effective in 2021

Feb 05
2021
Business people looking at documents

You know the feeling. You walk out of an hour-long meeting shaking your head and thinking to yourself “this should have been an email.” Luckily, there are ways to prevent meetings like this. Check out these tips for ways to get your meetings on track.

You know the feeling – you just finished an hour-long meeting, shaking your head and thinking to yourself, “This should have been an email.” A chunk of your day is gone forever, and as a business owner there are few things more valuable than your time. Unfortunately, sometimes it can feel like all of your time is spent in inefficient meetings. In a survey of 182 senior managers in a range of industries, Harvard Business Review found that 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work, 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient, 64% said meetings come at expense of deep thinking, and 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together. Luckily, there are ways to prevent meetings like this. Check out these tips for ways to get your meetings on track.

Send out an agenda beforehand

Your meeting prep shouldn’t start when you walk into the conference room, for either the organizer or the attendees. Too often we wait until we’ve gathered to get into detail about the meeting’s subject matter. If you are the host of the meeting, sending an agenda out in advance allows all those involved to consider the topics to be discussed. If you are attending the meeting, taking time to review the agenda can help you organize your thoughts beforehand. Not only will this cut down on time spent at the beginning explaining the purpose of the meeting, but you will also  find your meetings coming to deeper, more thoughtful and productive conclusions.

Take notes

Finding time to schedule a meeting that works with everyone’s calendars can be a nightmare. It’s likely that you’ll find yourself missing at least one person from your meeting. Even if everyone is present, it’s good practice to designate someone to take notes at the meeting. At the end of every meeting, have them send a summary of what was covered to all those involved. Keeping notes is a good way to make sure you’re not reworking a problem you’ve already found a solution to. Additionally, it makes it much easier to fill in those who were unable to attend.

Be timely

Marathon meetings kill focus. Don’t set meetings for longer than needed, and avoid going over your allotted time. That means starting your meetings on time and ending them on time, too. Set the expectation with your team that the meeting will be starting and ending on time. This sets boundaries for those who come late and helps keep your meeting from getting derailed by tangents. You can always set another meeting if needed, but setting the expectation that your meetings end on time can help you avoid unnecessary time-sucks. Your time is valuable and should be respected, and your meeting attendee’s time is equally important. Showing people that you respect and value their time will get you far.

Leave time for Q&A

Oftentimes question and answer sessions are slated for any time left over at the end of the meeting. If there are several questions, this can result in your meeting running longer than scheduled. Set aside time specifically for questions to keep your meeting on track.

Don’t just have a meeting to have a meeting

Sometimes a meeting is the way to go, but don’t rely on a meeting as a knee-jerk reaction. In today’s digital world, you can often communicate effectively without a face-to-face meeting. Before setting a meeting, weigh the possibility of sending an email instead. Choosing an email over a meeting when applicable can save your business valuable time.

Contact one of our Business Relationship Officers today to learn more about our business services and how we can help you achieve financial success!

Financial Education

Maximize Your Holiday Shopping Savings

Dec 15
2020
Young couple shopping on Black Friday.

For millions of Americans excitement is building as their biggest shopping day of the year quickly approaches.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday promise amazing deals, but without a good game plan you could be missing out on making the most of your holiday savings. 

As the holiday shopping continues, amazing deals are all around us. Without a good game plan, however, you could be missing out on making the most of your holiday savings.

Come up with a strategy

Plan out your purchases before you start shopping. It’s easy to get carried away in the frenzy of low prices. Deciding what you want ahead of time will save you from impulse buying. Check out the store’s ads and come up with a list of the items you want to purchase.  Make sure to look at the fine print, many deeply discounted items are only available “in-store.”

Know your purchases

Just because something is discounted, doesn’t mean it’s actually a good deal.  Many retailers will hike prices up and then mark them down.  Do some research on the items you want to buy so you know what your items are actually worth.  Right now fall apparel, small electronics, and small kitchen appliances are greatly discounted.  Wait until the holidays are over to find great deals on items like holiday décor and winter apparel.

Utilize apps

There are many apps out there that can do your leg work for you. Check out apps like Slickdeals, Ebates, Flipp and Shopkick. From finding and notifying you of the best deals on the items you are looking for, to rewarding you with free gift cards or cash back, these apps may definitely be worth downloading.

Shop with your rewards cards

Take advantage of rewards cards and earn money while you shop.  During the holidays many rewards cards offer some great incentives.  Idaho Central Rewards cardholders can enjoy 3% cash back on purchases with their Premier Rewards Visa through December 25, 2020!

Financial Education

Spotting a Phishing Attempt

Dec 11
2020
Idaho Central protects you against phishing.

When it comes to cyber security, we all want to believe that we are safe, and able to spot a scam from a mile away. We avoid those emails from the Nigerian prince, we know no random stranger is trying to give us a million dollars, and if it’s in our junk mail then weRead more

When it comes to cyber security, we all want to believe that we are safe, and able to spot a scam from a mile away. We avoid those emails from the Nigerian prince, we know no random stranger is trying to give us a million dollars, and if it’s in our junk mail then we leave it there. The reality is, however, that anyone can fall prey to a phishing attempt. Unfortunately, phishing attempts often look like they’re from a company you know and trust. In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million to phishing schemes in 2019. So how do you spot a phishing attempt and keep yourself safe?

Does it ask you to follow a link, open a file, or provide personal information?

Phishing attempts often tell a story to trick you into clicking a link or opening an attachment. This may look like a service you use emailing you to tell you that your payment information is outdated with a link to update it. Or it may look like an email from your bank letting you know that your online account is locked with a link to provide your login credentials, security questions, or other personal information. It could even look like a Facebook profile you know and trust messaging you that you have won a giveaway, with a link to provide payment information before you can claim your prize.

Does it feel urgent?

Many scams capitalize on simply creating a sense of urgency. Slow down and really evaluate what is being presented to you. The urgency may seem alarming, and your instinct may be to take whatever action it is prompting you to. When you slow down and take a step back, however, you are able to think clearly about the situation. Is your payment information really outdated? Can you go directly to their website or contact them to check on this, rather than clicking on the link in the email? Take your time to verify anything that may seem off, trust your instincts, and don’t commit to or take action on something that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Is it poorly written?

When reading through any email or message, take note of the grammar and wording used in the body of the message. If you notice spelling and grammatical mistakes, or even strange phrases, this should be a red flag that something isn’t right. Emails from legitimate sources are very carefully crafted to assure that they are professional and well-written. On another note, most email spam filters will look for key phrases or words to filter out phishing attempts, and spelling or grammatical mistakes can help scam emails bypass those filters and find their way directly in your inbox, instead of your junk folder. Since these look like they are coming from legitimate sources, take extra time to read them carefully and assure that they are authentic.

What do the links look like?

Since it may look like you’re being contacted from a company you know and trust, it can be hard to tell whether it is real or not. Scammers may use the company’s logo, header, and the link may even look like it’s taking you to their website. Just because a link says it’s going to send you to one place, doesn’t mean it actually will. One simple thing you can do to double-check links before you click on them is to hover your mouse over any links, and take note of whether the link in the text matches the URL displayed as the cursor hovers over the link. If these don’t match, this means the link is not taking you where it looks like it will at first sight.

Is it on social media?

Have you ever received a friend request on Facebook from someone you thought you were already friends with? Profile cloning is something that many people are familiar with. Perhaps your coworker, mom, or best friends sent you a friend request out of the blue that has no posts, and you’re already friends with them. Since you know that person did not create a brand new Facebook profile, it’s easy to spot these, delete the request, and report the profile as fake. However, a new trend that has surfaced is business page cloning, which may be harder to spot.

This may look like one of your favorite Facebook pages holding a legitimate contest that you have entered to win, and then shortly after you receive a friend request from that business, along with a message that you have won the contest. Don’t let the excitement of winning throw you off your guard, and analyze the situation the same way you would with a strange email. If you entered the contest on their business page, why are they sending you a new friend request from a separate profile? Are they asking you to click a link to claim your prize? Do they need you to provide your personal or banking information in order to win? Do they only have a few, very recent posts? Does the name of the page or profile include dashes, apostrophe’s, or other punctuation that isn’t normally there? Is the spelling and grammar off? If any of this raises a red flag, take a step back and find the original page you entered the contest on, and send them a quick message. They can verify whether this request was legitimate or not, and save you from providing your personal information to a fake account. Keep your guard up, phishing attempts can happen anywhere, at any time.

Does it look like it’s from Idaho Central?

As always, please remember that Idaho Central would never send you an email or social media message with a link asking you to provide login credentials, security questions, or any other personal information. Always go directly to www.iccu.com or use our app to log in and access your online banking. If you have received what appears to be a phishing email pretending to be from Idaho Central Credit Union, do not respond to the request. Instead, forward the email to abuse@iccu.com. Social media giveaways are also being targeted by scammers who impersonate the promoter’s social media accounts. Do not click any links in messages, and report any fake profiles. We will always message the winner(s) from our official Facebook and Instagram accounts, and announce the names of the winners publically.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you ever have questions or concerns; Idaho Central can help you identify scams or fraud, and help you with the next steps needed to protect yourself. Learn more about how to protect yourself at our security center.