Author: Compass Community Credit Union

Buying a home is often one of the biggest financial decisions you can make. The process of becoming a homeowner can take a great deal of patience and fiscal commitment, but in the end, it’s an incredibly rewarding milestone to achieve. However, it’s important to remember the total cost of buying a home encompasses more …

The Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

Buying a home is often one of the biggest financial decisions you can make. The process of becoming a homeowner can take a great deal of patience and fiscal commitment, but in the end, it’s an incredibly rewarding milestone to achieve. However, it’s important to remember the total cost of buying a home encompasses more than just your down payment and monthly mortgage. Below are some often overlooked and unexpected costs of buying a home.

Utilities

Typical utilities include electricity, water, internet, heating, cooling, and waste management. Be sure to factor in utility costs when determining whether you can or can’t afford to purchase a home. If you want a better idea of what the costs will be for a home you’re interested in, request a copy of previous bills from the real estate agent.

Homeowners Insurance

Your home is far more than a roof to sleep under. In many cases, a home is one’s most valuable asset—an asset that most can’t afford to replace out-of-pocket in the event of disaster-related damage or total loss. Homeowners insurance helps protect your asset. Additionally, most lenders require that you have insurance on your home, as it safeguards them (as well as you) against financial loss. Make sure you add in the cost of protecting your home when putting together your monthly budget.

Property Taxes

Beyond your mortgage, down payment, and insurance, it’s important that you also remember to factor in property taxes. The cost of your taxes will vary depending upon where you live and the value of your home. The taxes will either be billed directly by your local taxation office or paid through your mortgage lender.   If paying directly, you’ll usually make two payments each year.  If paying through your lender, the cost will be added to your monthly mortgage payment. Make sure to budget for this ongoing, recurring cost, as you will always need to pay property taxes.

Maintenance and Repair

As a renter, your landlord was likely responsible for regular maintenance and repairs. If your furnace stopped working, you could call your landlord and they would coordinate making the repair at no extra cost to you. As a homeowner, though, it’s up to you to fund maintenance and repairs. According to the one percent rule, you should set aside one percent of your home’s value each year for home maintenance. If your home is valued at $200,000, you should be setting aside $2,000 to cover any repair costs.

When you’re ready to take that next step to buy your home, Compass is here to help you with the financing. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at 707-443-8662 x5.

Six Tips to Get the Best Deal on a New Car

Are you in the market for a new or used car? When it comes to car shopping, timing is everything! Did you know you have a better chance of leaving the dealership with a great deal in the winter? Or that getting pre-approved can save steps at the dealership and keep you focused on your budget? Here are the six best tips to get you into a new ride this season:

1.            Get pre-approved! Before you buy, apply online with Compass at compassccu.org or call 707-443-8662. Get pre-approved so you have the best chances of negotiation. Once you’re pre-approved, you can shop for the car as if you had a check in your pocket. This helps you stay focused on the actual selling price of the car, rather than keeping track of the interest rate, down payment, loan term and trade-in.

2.            Winter months offer the greatest potential for deals. After the holiday shopping rush has settled down, consumers are less likely to make larger purchases such as a car. Foot traffic through car dealerships usually remains slow from the New Year into February.

3.            Shop during the week. By avoiding the weekend crowd, you’ll be more apt to get the salesperson’s undivided attention. They may even feel more willing to negotiate because of how few people shop for cars mid-week.

4.            Make your offer late in the day. If you know what you want, and have done your research, it might save you time and money to visit the dealership closer to closing time. The salesperson might not want to spend hours negotiating a deal, pressing them to make a good deal.

5.            Don’t think about the monthly payments. Of course, you have to consider the monthly payments and whether or not you can afford them! However, worry about the actual price of the car. A low monthly payment won’t do you any good stretched out over a long period of time and will eventually add up to more than the sticker price!

6.            Avoid tax refund season. Consumers commonly use their tax refund checks to purchase big ticket items—like a new car! The bad news about this time of year is that dealers don’t feel the need to offer quite as many discounts to entice shoppers to buy.

Not sure what to buy? Research and shop inventory – click here.

7 Ways to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

Every year, stolen debit and credit card information account for billions of dollars in losses and fraud. Cybercriminals are standing by 24/7, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to keep yourself protected.

1. Credit Card vs. Debit Card

Both can fall victim to fraud. If you’re the victim of fraud or theft, Compass can assist you with filing a dispute to get your money back. Best practice is to monitor your account regularly with our free online banking or free Compass mobile app. You can even set up alerts to help manage your account.

2. Don’t Store Your Card Information on a Website

If your computer asks: “remember my password,” the correct answer is “no.” This feature is obviously convenient, but it leaves you vulnerable should someone gain access to your computer or browser. Similarly, if you’re making a purchase, some sites will ask if you want to save your card information for future purchases. Always choose “no.”

3. Monitor Account Activity and Boost Anti-Fraud Measures

Many credit and debit card issuers allow you to sign up for transaction alerts that will notify you when a purchase has been made over a set amount, which can help you monitor your account. Regularly log in to your account to keep tabs on your account activity. If you notice anything questionable, report it right away.

4. Look for http “s” Before Purchasing

Not all sites are safe and secure. Ensure the site you are visiting is secure before purchasing by looking for the “https://” in the browser’s address bar before you provide your credit card information. The “s” stands for Secure and should appear on all web pages that require disclosing financial information. If it’s not there, the site is not secure, so discontinue any transactions or sharing of personal information.

5. Be Wary of Emails Requesting Information

Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending official-looking and sounding emails requesting that you confirm a purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log in to the authentic website by typing the address yourself.

6. Be Careful of Faked Websites

“Typosquatting,” also called URL hijacking, is what may occur when you mistype a website name and don’t realize it. Scammers set up fake domain names that are just a letter or two off from popular sites to take advantage of unintentional misspellings. Those who normally type quickly and rely heavily on autocorrect are especially at risk. This can result in Amazon becoming “Amazone” or “Amazne.” Also, bookmark the pages you visit most often to make navigating easier and less of a hassle.

7. Assume Public Wi-Fi is Not Secure

Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, and other public places are convenient but often not secure. Online shoppers don’t realize that cyber thieves can grab their wireless data at Wi-Fi hotspots because the majority of these places don’t encrypt the information you send over the Internet. If a network doesn’t require a password, it’s safe to assume it is not secure.

The Bottom Line: It’s important to take extra precautions while shopping or doing any financial transactions online. Cybercriminals know we’re conducting more business online than ever and they’re looking for ways to target unsuspecting consumers.

Stay on top of your credit scores and protect your identity with our IdentityIQ plan. To learn more, click here.

It’s never too early, or too late, to start saving for retirement.

It’s been said that to retire comfortably you should have at least $1 million saved. While that may seem like an unreachable number, it really isn’t that hard if you put your mind to it.

For example, if you start putting away $400 a month in your 20s, or $650 a month in your 30s, or $1,300 a month in your 40s, and get at least a 6% return on your investment, you could actually hit that milestone by 67.

That’s the power of compound interest. With compound interest, any interest you earn accrues interest on itself. So while it might not seem like you’re not putting a lot of money away, over time it can really start to add up.

Here are a few simple ways to start saving for retirement:

• Enroll in your employer’s 401(k) plan and make sure you take advantage of any company match

• Contribute to a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA. To learn more, click here.

• Talk with an investment professional.

• Can’t seem to find any extra money to save? Go out to eat less often and avoid impulse purchases. Most of all, put yourself on a budget.

Stopping Fraud on the go

The convenience of mobile banking allows you to handle your banking on the go. Unfortunately, mobile identity theft is also on the rise. Users should protect their privacy and their financial security by following these do’s and don’ts.

Do:

  • Use strong alphanumeric passwords and change them regularly
  • Log out when you exit a social networking site like Facebook
  • Install and maintain up to date industry trusted antivirus and spyware software
  • Lock your mobile device with a password, so information can’t be accessed if it’s lost or stolen
  • Check out the reviews of an app before you download it
  • Let your financial institution (us!) know if you lose your phone or change your phone number
  • Monitor your accounts and credit report frequently for fraudulent or suspicious transactions

Don’t:

  • Access financial accounts when using free public Wi-Fi, unless you’ve installed encryption
  • Put personal or account information in an unencrypted text or email
  • Store sensitive information such as account numbers in your mobile
  • Use the same password for multiple accounts
  • Share your birthdate, email address, or personal details in a social media profile visible to anyone
  • Click on pop-ups or open attachments from dubious senders (anything you didn’t request yourself is suspicious)

Compass now offers identity theft protection and credit report monitoring. Stay on top of your credit scores and protect your identity with your IdentityIQ plan. To learn more, click here.

June 15th is Elder Abuse Awareness Day!

Stop elder fraud from cheating a loved one.

Every year, crooks bombard senior Americans with all kinds of scams. Here are just a few:

  • Sweepstake scams
  • Junk mail
  • Phony investment schemes
  • Bogus charity fundraisers
  • Medicare fraud
  • Predatory reverse mortgages

Scammers with their con games and hoaxes cost people over 60 billion dollars every year.

It can be difficult for some to admit they may have been victimized. According to AARP, there are several telltale signs to watch for:

  1. Money and valuables are disappearing for no good reason.
  2. Bills aren’t paid, and a parent seems confused about his or her finances.
  3. They are being secretive about money and asking for more. There may be strange credit card charges.
  4. A family member won’t answer questions about your parent’s money.
  5. Someone new befriends your parent and manages to take joint title to accounts and property.

To help keep our seniors safe, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created some free materials at www.consumerfinance.gov.

Tips to avoid missing a bill’s due date.

Being late every now and then when paying your bills doesn’t sound like a big deal. However, those late fees can really add up.

In addition to charging a late fee, creditors could increase your interest rate. Some credit card companies will even reset your rate to a default APR as high as 29.99%.

Fortunately, Compass Community Credit Union has a way you can avoid all this and simplify your life in the process. It’s our free Bill Pay.

With Bill Pay, you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment or paying late fees. Simply schedule the payment date and that’s it. No need to spend time writing a check, paying for stamps and dropping it in the mail.

Taking care of your financial future is important. Using our free Bill Pay can make it a little simpler. To get started or to learn more, click here.

The most important financial account you probably don’t have

Financial stress haunts many of us. We say, “If only I had more money?”

At Compass, helping members become more financially confident is a big part of who we are. One step you can take to increase your peace of mind: create an emergency fund.

For those who have limited income or little room in their budget to put money away, an emergency cash reserve may be even more essential than college funds or retirement savings. You may know how many years you are from retiring and how soon the kids will be old enough for college. But, there’s no way to tell when your car’s transmission will begin to slip, your goalie daughter will break a tooth or an arm, or your job will evaporate.

Emergencies happen when we least expect them, and our wallets usually suffer collateral damage.

Here are five steps to reduce your financial stress:

1. Figure out the cost for your monthly “must-haves.” On your most recent checking account statement, circle the amounts you paid for essentials. This means the necessities required for bare-bones living, such as your rent or mortgage payment, groceries, gas, insurance, utilities, credit card and loan payments.

2. Estimate how long you might need to stay afloat in an emergency. Most people should have enough savings to cover for three to six months without a paycheck. You may want to adjust this target up or down if your job would be harder or easier to replace. Let’s say your monthly amount is $2,500, so your emergency savings goal, if three times that, is: $7,500. Mission impossible? Maybe not, if you set up milestones on the way.

3. Make a road map toward your goal. Using $2,500 as an example, you’d get there in about 23 months by putting aside $50 every two weeks. Boost that $50 to $75, and it would take only 15½ months to get to $2,500. Within four years, you could reach your goal of $7,500.

4. Set up “driverless savings.” Once you’ve decided how much to set aside regularly, set up automatic transfers in online banking. Instead of hoping there’s money left to save at the end of each pay period, set it and forget it. That’s a crucial step for success.

5. To manage your stress, keep on saving after you reach your goal. Life is unpredictable, so there may be times you’ll need to draw cash from your emergency account. Just keep squirreling away into your savings, and you’ll replenish your reserve.

Some credit union members like to use our low-interest credit card or equity line of credit as a financial safety net. But when it comes to building confidence, nothing beats having savings in reserve. If you would like to open a separate “Emergency Savings Account”, you can open a secondary savings account online or stop by one of our branches.

April National Youth Month

April is National Youth Month, designed to encourage kids to develop healthy saving habits by making saving fun and exciting. The theme for this year is “Be a credit union saver and your savings will never go extinct.” 

This campaign is an opportunity to engage with young members and show them Compass Community Credit Union is here to help them throughout their financial journey. This Jurassic theme makes saving for the future fun and helps younger members appreciate the importance of putting money aside. 

To learn more, click here.

Watch out for these scams

Phone scams have been around almost as long as phones. Sadly, the prevalence of automated robocalls has exploded and appears to invade our lives almost daily.

Three general warning signs your call may be a scam:

  1. You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to work for a government agency or Microsoft. None of them will call you unless you have already contacted them.
  2. The caller asks for your Social Security number or to “verify your identity” in any way.
  3. The caller threatens consequences if you do not provide payment or personal information.

Beware of these particular scams that are sweeping the nation:

The IRS Swindle

A threatening phone caller “from the IRS” (or “from the Federal Reserve”) says you’re guilty of tax evasion and must pay the penalty at once with your credit or debit card, or else face jail time or revocation of your driver’s license. Some folks with complex financial lives may pay up, assuming they made a mistake on their taxes. Wrong—the IRS never demands payment over the phone. Self-defense: Don’t pay. Report the scam to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General’s office at 1-800-366-4484.

The “Family member” Scam

The person claims to be a family member in trouble and needs your help, asking you to send them money or use your credit card. You might be asked to guess who’s on the line. If so, don’t give out any names. You ask the caller to identify who they are. Then ask them to describe something you know only the real person would know like a special occasion or trip together, a gift you gave or received or something in your home that they would know. Self-defense: Be absolutely sure you know who you are speaking with and do not give out any information until you know for sure who it is you’re talking with.

The “Computer Crash” Con

You get a phone call from a self-described “computer security expert” who warns that your Windows PC or laptop may be infected with a fatal virus. You might be asked for money to protect your system or to remove this nonexistent malware. If you agree to download a fix or allow remote access to your computer, the crook can ask for your passwords—and may actually install malware that you then have to pay to get rid of. Self-defense: Hang up on this scammer. No legitimate IT security pro will ever cold-call you in this way.

In short, a credit union is a cooperative financial institution where people work together to make everyone’s lives better. Everyone who has an account here is a member. And every member is an owner.

Rather than making profits to send to far-off shareholders, Compass CCU reinvests in our credit union. Which means we reinvest in YOU. That’s why we say that, at Compass Community Credit Union, we guide you to better banking.