4 Ways to Bring Your Dream Kitchen to Life

A kitchen remodel or makeover not only adds value to your home, it will almost feel like you’ve got a new home. Here’s 4 ways to bring your dream kitchen to life. 

1.) Know your budget 

First, sit down and crunch some numbers. 

  • With $5,000, you can spring for a fresh coat of paint, replace faucets, pick up a new light fixture and spruce up the area with some modern accessories.
  • With $15,000, you can also buy a new appliance or two, replace your countertops and install new, budget-friendly cabinets.

If you’re planning on spending more, you might be able to redo your entire kitchen. When determining how much to spend, remember that recently remodeled kitchens return between 80 and 105% of their cost when a home is sold.

2.) Choose your cabinets

These are your cabinet options:

  • Cabinets with wood panels and solid wood frames are sturdy, budget-friendly and fashionable.
  • Porcelain-tile cabinets are a fantastic new option that look almost exactly like wood for half the price.
  • Laminate is your cheapest option for cabinets. It’s durable, easy to clean and comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Refinish the outside of your cabinets instead of replacing them for a new look that doesn’t bust your budget.

3.) Make a splash

Replacing your sink’s faucet, bowl or hardware can modernize your kitchen without costing much.

Brushed nickel is the most popular choice for faucets right now, largely due to its durability. The least expensive faucet finish is chrome, while brass is another long-lasting, economical choice.

If you’re replacing your sink’s bowl as well, there are three main styles to consider:

  • Farmhouse bowls are super-large and deep. On the flip side, their large size means they often require a customized base cabinet for installation.
  • Top-mount bowls have a “drop-in” rim that keeps the sink in place. This makes installation simple, but creates a prime place for dirt to gather.
  • Undermount sinks are trendy and look sleek, but can take double the installation time.  

4.) Choose your countertops

The trending countertop choices are granite, quartz and stone. These materials are beautiful, easy to maintain and can last for years. If you need something more budget-friendly, you might want to go with ceramic tile. It’s durable, comes in almost any imaginable color, and is a fraction of the price of stone.

Another great option is laminate. It’s easy to install and is also available in many patterns and colors.  Lastly, consider going with solid wood. You can have it sanded and treated to give it an extra long life, and it will give your kitchen a warm finish.

Longing for an upgrade and short on savings or cashflow? You can still have your dream kitchen. Call, click, or stop by UCCU today to learn about our Personal Loans, Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit.  

Your Turn: Have you recently remodeled your kitchen?  Tell us what money saving options worked for you in the comments!






Share Button

All You Need to Know About Smishing Scams

Text messaging has come under attack as one of the most vulnerable mediums for identity theft and more. Here’s what you need to know about an SMS message-based scam called “smishing.”

How it works

Smishing scams use text messages to establish contact with the intended victim to later access their personal information.

The scam begins with a supposedly urgent text appearing to be from the victim’s financial institution. The text may claim that the victim’s checking account is locked, or that there has been an unauthorized purchase charged to the victim’s account. The scammer will warn that immediate action must be taken.

The victim is then instructed to call a specified number and, upon doing so, will be asked to share their financial information. Once they’ve got their hands on this info, the scammer is free to steal the victim’s identity, empty their accounts or go on a shopping spree on the victim’s dime.

Who are the victims?

Smishing scams primarily target people who do their banking online, but fraudsters will use any cellphone number they can find. If you own a checking account and a cellphone, you are a candidate for a smishing scam.

Recognizing smishing scams

Your credit union will not alert you of a possible fraud or account lockdown via text; we prefer more personal means to help you know it’s us.

You can also spot the smishing scam just by looking at the phone number. The text will often appear to come from a number that is obviously fake.

If you’ve been targeted

If you receive a suspicious-looking text, do not engage the texter! Jot down the scammer’s number and delete the message. Let us know about the smishing attempt, tell all your friends and alert the FTC.

If you’ve fallen for the scam and your accounts have been compromised, alert your credit card companies and be sure to let us know, too.

Protecting yourself

  1. Always use two-factor authentication for banking app and sites.
  2. Use strong and different passwords across your accounts and apps.
  3. Ignore all text messages from unknown numbers.

Don’t let those crooks get their hands on your money!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a smishing scam? Tell us all about it in the comments! 






Share Button

Investing – Step #9: Start Investing!

Now that you’ve determined your risk factor, and have chosen your investment style along with a source of financial advice, it’s finally time to start investing beyond your existing retirement funds.

You may choose to start with a low-risk investment vehicle, such as a bond, a certificate or a money market fund. Or, you may decide you’re ready for something a little more risky, like a stock.

Here’s a list of investment vehicles and what you need to know about each choice. Our list begins with the lowest-risk options and progressively gets riskier. Find the vehicle that most suits your needs and personality, and then start investing!

1.) Bonds

A bond is essentially a loan to a company or to the government. Suppose the city you live in wants to build a park. The city may choose to sell bonds to fund this project. In exchange, they will make regular “coupon” payments at a fixed percentage to all investors. At the end of the bond term – typically 10 years – the city will pay back the initial investment. Thus, a bond holds no risk to the investor and a guaranteed promise of growth.

Bonds have a noticeable lack of the volatility that is common in stock investments. However, because of the minimal risk, there is also minimal growth. Your gains are fixed and not dependent on the success of your investment. While it’s not as exciting as a stock that has the potential to earn you huge returns, a bond is nonetheless a safe, secure place to start investing.

2.) Share Savings Certificates (similar to CDs)

A share savings certificate (aka, certificate) is like a certificate of deposit. It is the most straightforward investment you can make. You can even set one up at UCCU!

With it, you are trading in the right to withdraw your money for a specific length of time while it is on deposit with a financial institution. In return, you receive a set dividend rate for that period, and it is not subject to change, regardless of what happens to general interest rates.  You are required to keep the money in the certificate until maturity of the term length. Withdrawing cash early will net you a penalty that is generally equal to three months’ worth of dividends.

The amount you’ll earn with a certificate is dependent on the term and the rate being paid at the time of account opening. However, even if current rates are low, if you lock in your money for a while, you can earn more than a general savings rate, making certificates a great low-risk investment.

3.) Money Market Funds

When you buy a money market fund, you are buying a pool of investments, automatically creating diversification and minimizing risk. Typically, a money market fund will include CDs and short-term bonds, along with other low-risk investments. They are usually sold by brokerage firms and mutual fund companies.

Unlike CDs, money market funds are liquid, which means you can withdraw your deposits without waiting for a maturity date.

4.) Dividend-Paying Stocks

Many well-established companies pay dividends on their stocks that are higher than what you can get on safer investments like CDs . As stocks, though, they are naturally not as safe as fixed-income securities.

Dividend-paying stocks are a great option because they combine a fixed income with the possibility for growth. Also, in case of a declining market, you can still earn income from your stock, even when the price of your shares fluctuates. They are often the ideal choice in a bear market, which is when investors look toward income-producing stock over growth.

5.) Stocks

If you feel ready to dip into the general stock market, there is still some work you should consider. Before you plunk down your money, carefully research your chosen company. Don’t buy a single stock without having a clear understanding of that company’s current financial situation.

You can begin your research with some of these resources:

  1. The company’s annual report
  2. The 10K and 10Q reports that the company files with the SEC

3. Standard & Poor‘s Stock Reports

Value Line Investment Survey

5. The Wall Street Journal and/or Investor‘s Business Daily

If you find leafing through a newspaper or reams of a report to be tedious, you don’t have to resort to blind investing. With the information superhighway, research is easier than ever. The following list of resources are available online and will clue you in to your company’s financial standing:

1.                  Bloomberg

2.                  Financial Sense

3.                  Forbes

4.                  King World News

5.                  MarketWatch

6.                  The Ludwig von Mises Institute

7.                  Nasdaq

8.                  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Your Turn: Outside of retirement, what was your first investment and how did it fare? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

Share Button

Debit & Credit Card Safety

“And how are you paying for your purchases today?” 

It’s a question we have to answer almost every day. Will you be using cash, a credit card or a debit card? 

It may be instinct for you to pull out any piece of plastic without thinking, but your random card of choice might not be the safest way to pay. Sometimes, you’ll want to use a credit card. And sometimes,  its a better idea to pay with a debit card. Still other times, you’re best off using cash. 

Let’s explore when and how to use your debit card. 

Credit and debit: How are they different? 

They’re both plastic, with a series of numbers, a security code and your name embedded on them. So, how are debit and credit cards different? 

A better question might be: How are they the same? Appearances aside, your credit and debit cards have very little in common. 

Credit cards allow you to choose your purchases now, and pay for them weeks, months or even years later. If you let your balance grow, you’ll be paying for a lot more than it really costs in the way of interest. But, if you make timely payments, you’ll have yourself a small loan that usually costs you little to nothing. Credit cards also offer rewards, purchase protection and the ability to back out of a purchase you’ve decided against. You can also contest fraudulent charges on your account, freeze your credit on a compromised card or even close the card completely. 

Debit card transactions, on the other hand, take the money right out of your checking account as soon as you swipe. Some point of sale terminals put a freeze on the amount, removing it from your account a few days later. But, either way, you won’t be able to access that money and you won’t have to worry about paying for it later. There’s no interest here, but there also may be no purchase protection, depending upon your financial institution. Finally, in case of fraud you may need to resort to closing your checking account. However, usually a simple issuing of a new debit card is all that’s needed.  

Which one’s better? It depends on the purpose. Debit cards are great for helping you stick to your budget and won’t send you into a cycle of debt. However, because they may offer very little recourse in cases of fraud, credit cards are usually the better choice in the most vulnerable situations. 

5 purchases you should carefully consider before using your debit card 

According to data from FICO, during the first 6 months of 2017, the number of compromised ATMs and point-of-sale devices was 21% higher than it was in the first 6 months of 2016. Don’t let your card be next! 

Here’s where you may not want to use your debit card: 

1.) At the pump 

Card skimmers at gas stations are on the rise. By choosing to use your credit card instead of your debit card at the pump, you’ll have an added layer of protection against fraud. You can also choose to use cash. It’s the safest way to pay (so long as you watch out for pickpockets!). 

2.) At an isolated ATM 

The ATM at UCCU? Definitely safe to use.

The one at the crowded pharmacy? Probably OK.

The machine in a secluded corner of an empty convenience store? Very possibly tampered with. 

Isolated ATMs in locations with very little security and sparse foot traffic are prime targets for hackers. It’s best to give these machines a wide berth and pick up your cash at your local UCCU branch. 

3.) In an unfamiliar location 

When on vacation, it’s important to think before you swipe. You don’t know the area and you can’t be certain which clerks are to be trusted. You’re better off paying with a credit card or with cash so your purchases are protected against fraud. 

Also, a large charge in an area you never frequent might cause your purchases to be flagged as fraudulent. Let your credit union know about your trip and be careful how you swipe! 

4.) For large purchases 

If you’re springing for a new entertainment center or another big-ticket item, you’re best off using your credit card. It’ll offer you dispute rights in case the product doesn’t turn out how you expected, and you might be granted an extended warranty just for using a credit card.

5.) Restaurants 

Can you really trust the servers at your favorite restaurant with your personal financial information? When you hand them your debit card at the end of the meal, that’s exactly what you’re doing. The server has more than enough time to clone your card and then use it for any purchases they’d like to make. Unless your restaurant has a tableside payment system, you’re better off using a credit card or cash to pay for your meal. 

Look out for skimmers 

Always use caution when using your debit or credit card. Check the payment processor for anything that looks out of place, such as a newer keypad on an older machine, or a hard-to-use slot for your card. Don’t forget to cover the keypad with your hand when inputting your PIN. 

Stay ahead of hackers by using your debit card with caution! 

Your Turn: Was your debit card ever compromised? Share your experience with us in the comments!







Share Button