Financial education for teens: checking accounts

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Credit unions nationwide are celebrating youth April 22-27. Unity One Credit Union is included. Visit our Web site for more details.

Financial education for teens

"Money doesn't grow on trees." Try telling that to your teen or young adult, and he/she may look at you puzzled. We can all agree that financial education for teens is much needed, and not enough support is given to educators to adequately teach it. Enter your local credit union. financial education for teensCredit unions, because of their not-for-profit status, consider financial education an integral part of their operations. It is one way in which they can provide value to their members and the communities surrounding their branches. Unity One Credit Union is no different.

In December and January, high school students from Birdville ISD, specifically the Birdville Center of Technology and Advanced Learning, participated in Unity One's award-winning financial education program, Build Your Own Credit Union or BYOCU.

Participants quenched their entreprenuerial thirst by creating a grassroots financial institution like a credit union one step at a time--starting with identifying an underserved population that could benefit from low-cost banking. Lessons in managing money were infused throughout the creation process. They discussed financial products like savings and checking, services like mobile banking and borrowing and debt management. Special guests, including Unity One's CEO, COO, managers and staff, acted as coaches and offered their expertise and advice.

Eric Hohler, Unity One vice president of finance, judged the final credit union presentations. "I was very impressed by how much creativity the kids put into their credit unions. One group proposed a digital wallet with some very cool features."

Each group used PowerPoint or Prezi as visual aids, dressed in business attire and provided handouts for the judges.

"Many of the students are about to compete in an upcoming SkillsUSA competition, a couple in a finance category; so, this is good training," said Lisa O'Connor, a forensic science instructor at BCTAL.

The six-session program compensated students for consistency and effort, and a "most valuable group" was selected by the experts at the close of each session. Teams distributed their cash prizes according to each team member's level of participation.

Instructor Cindy Valenta said, "As teachers, we tell students about being smart with their money, but when an outside organization like Unity One reinforces what we say it is so much more powerful."

"This was the most competitive and money-savvy group of students we have ever had for BYOCU," said Erayne Gee Hill, director of community and public relations at Unity One. "Their energy was contagious."

Below are the winners of BYOCU at BCTAL and their presentations. Congratulations, students!

First Place - With You CU (WUCU)

Click here to see the WUCU presentation.

WUCU brochure

WUCU flier and loan application

Members: Michelle Gonzalez, Kelly Ly, Kimsa Pham, Jim Nguyen

Second Place - Fresh Start CU (FSCU)

Click here to see the Fresh Start CU presentation.

Members: Ruben Cerda, Gabby Rodrigues, Armando Villareal

Third Place - eCU

Click here to see the eCU presentation.

Members: Jamie Anderson, Adam Busch, Taylor Clift, Charlie Dreyer

 


A credit union employee confesses

by Erayne Gee Hill, Director of Community & Public Relations

Trevor's Christmas list 2011I confess; I'm a holiday procrastinator. When it comes to spending money for gift-buying and decorating for the holidays, I am extremely behind. Having a seven-year-old doesn't help either. His excitement over Santa's impending visit, makes me even more anxious--oh, the pressure!  Our house is the only one on the block that is sans the inflatable Frosty, lit candy canes and red bows. And, don't mention shopping for gifts. I am that nut that shops the day before Christmas Eve. Oh well, it will all get done, but I'm just not there yet. I've learned to embrace my tendencies, and experience has taught me a few lessons--buy something that appeals to everyone and make one stop work. Here are gift ideas for my fellow procrastinators:

Holiday Gift Cards - I confess again; for the last few Christmas celebrations, I have given out VISA gift cards to all family members. From kids to mature adults, everyone likes money; and, they can definitely find uses for it. Unity One offers holiday gift cards for a small fee of $3 in addition to the amount loaded on the card. One trip to the credit union is all it takes, and there are usually no lines. :-)

Toiletries - Ahh, this is a good one. One year, I was extremely behind in my shopping (that's nothing new), and I searched for the store with the fewer amount of cars in front of it. This particular year, it happened to be Bed, Bath and Beyond. A lot of things were out of my price range and didn't meet my criteria of practicality except--an electric toothbrush by Oral B. Only $29.99 and in different colors, the toothbrushes were sensibles gifts that I knew would get used. Now, I'll warn you--when my family opened their gifts on Christmas day, there were no gleeful shouts. However, I can guarantee you that everyone that was given a toothbrush used it for many years following that Christmas. If the electric toothbrush is not your idea of a good gift, find something in the line of toiletries; they are practical and cost-effective.

Data Storage - Practically everyone you know has a flash drive attached to their key chain or in their purse. What a great, compact gift. Depending on the storage size, the price of your flash drive can be as low as $6. If you have more money to spend, consider an external hard drive. You can find them for as low as $45. Go in the store of choice on a mission, grab a handful and make your way to the checkout counter. Shouldn't take your more than 15 minutes.

Magazine Subscriptions - If my family is reading this, feel free to purchase subscriptions to People or Instyle for me for Christmas or anytime, for that matter. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving. Each month, you are reminded that you are loved. Did you know that Amazon sells subscriptions? Right now, you can get a 12-month subscription for Better Homes and Gardens, Fitness, Maxim and others for $5.

Food - Sweet treats are always great, cost-effective gift ideas. Have you been on Pinterest lately? Nothing says love than someone who has slaved in the kitchen cooking and baking for you. If you receive an edible gift from me that has not been bought at a store or bakery, you are pretty SPECIAL. It takes time, patience and skill--which I'm lacking most of the time. Break out your recipe book and get it going -- cake pops, cookie pops, peppermint candy, homemade gumdrops, fudge, rice krispie treat trees, etc.

But wait! Get your money straight first.

Discuss your Options. Click Here.

If your budget for spending is lower this year and saving hasn't been realistic, there is a solution. Visit your credit union, and have a discussion with a member service officer to discover your options. Low-cost personal loans are one way to go. Notice that I wrote "low cost." You are more likely to get approved because of your relationship with your credit union. Until December 24, Unity One Credit Union is offering rates as low as 5.85% APR*. Borrow up to $2,500 for 12 months. Click here for more information. Better yet, have a no-obligation conversation with a Unity One staffmember for FREE about smart borrowing.

*APR=Annual Percentage Rate. Rate quoted "as low as." Must qualify for the lowest rate. Other rates may apply. Payment per $1,000 borrowed at 5.85% APR for 12 months is $86 monthly. Not available on existing Unity One loans. Certain restrictions may apply.

Unity One Credit Union in North Richland Hills!

BCTAL 2Convenience is the word for North Richland Hills residents as their banking options increased today. Unity One Credit Union opened its sixth branch at Birdville ISD's Center of Technology and Advanced Learning (BCTAL). NRH residents and Birdville ISD students, teachers, staff and parents have a not-for-profit financial institution to visit, situated on Mid Cities Blvd. and less than a mile east of Rufe Snow Dr.

At a ribbon cutting and grand opening breakfast, North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino spoke on behalf of the city council and citizens and emphasized that partnerships such as the one between Unity One and Birdville ISD are a win-win for everyone but especially the students. He also jokingly thanked Birdville ISD board members and Superintendent Darrell Brown for assisting in the city's economic development efforts, and he commended them for innovative learning. Unity One CEO Gary Williams stressed that the partnership is reciprocal and that the credit union plans to be a resource for financial education for all district schools. The Northeast Tarrant Chamber performed a ribbon cutting and made presentations to Unity One CEO Gary Williams and BCTAL Branch Manager Priscilla Garcia.

IMG 0128The branch is staffed and equipped to provide Unity One's menu of products and services including deposits, withdrawals, loan processing, money orders, check cashing etc. to existing members and the community. In early November, the BCTAL branch will be added to the shared branching network, and members of other credit unions will be able to deposit, withdraw and make payments via the branch.

Birdville ISD's Center of Technology and Advanced Learning was built in 2009 with space for a financial insitutiton to aid in reinforcing financial responsibility to students. After a failed partnership left the space vacant for three years, the district found synergy with Unity One Credit Union, headquartered in Fort Worth. The BCTAL Branch of Unity One will employ Birdville ISD students as tellers, and the credit union has installed an ATM on school grounds. The ATM uniquely distributes 5s and 20s, to meet the needs of students.

About Unity One Credit Union
Established in 1927, Unity One Credit Union is the oldest credit union in Texas. A member-driven and not-for-profit cooperative, Unity One CU served the employees and families of the BNSF Railway for 70 years. However, after transferring its corporate headquarters to Fort Worth in 1998, the credit union expanded its field of membership to include other non-railroad companies, organizations and individuals.
 
Today, anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Fort Worth, Blue Mound, Saginaw, Haslet, Keller, Colleyville, Bedford, North Richland Hills, Southlake and St. Paul, MN may apply for membership. Unity One CU has six branches to serve over 23,000 members nationwide. For more information about Unity One Credit Union, visit www.unityone.org. Think outside the bank.®

 
About BCTAL
The Birdville Center of Technology and Advanced Learning (BCTAL) is a bond-funded facility, built in 2009, that houses career and technology courses, advanced science courses and dual-credit college classes.  There is a business/college atmosphere, without school bells, that promotes collaboration and advanced learning. 
 
Students have the opportunity to get a head start on acquiring the skills necessary to be successful in their chosen careers and in college. Onsite is a movie theater, bistro and school store and now a credit union that are operated by students. Courses offered at BCTAL include: finance, culinary arts, cosmetology, automotive technology, construction, marketing, health and medicine, audio/video production, law and much more. For more information about BCTAL visit www.birdvilleschools.net/cotal or call 817.547.3800.

Consider long-term care with the help of your CU

mature lady in yogo poseUnity One Credit Union partners with Allegiant Wealth Management, an agency of Mass Mutual, to bring our members information on what they want to hear. Join us Thursday, September 20 for a Lunch & Learn focusing on long-term care at the Campus Branch at 11:30 a.m. If you can't make it, check the credit union Web site and Facebook page for upcoming educational events. Your credit union is with you every step of the way.

According to Kiplinger.com, a source for financial advice and forecasts, the following are ten things you should know about long-term care:

  1. Long-term care is needed when you require assistance with every day activities like bathing, dressing and eating.
  2. On average, 70 percent of individuals over the age of 65 will require some type of long-term care. However, some people may need care at any age because of an accident or lifelong disability. Over 40 percent of people currently receiving care are adults 18-64 years-old.
  3. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home in 2011 was over $87,000.
  4. In 2011, the average cost of assisted living was more than $41,000 per year.
  5. Medicare does not cover personal or custodial care, which is a large piece of long-term care services.
  6. Rules regarding Medicaid vary from state to state, but generally individuals must spend down their assets to their last $2,000 to qualify for Medicaid-paid long-term care.
  7. There are more stringent policies in place to make it harder to give away assets to look "poor" enough on paper to qualify for Medicaid. The government can look at financial transactions five years prior.
  8. Long-term care can allow you to choose where you receive care, whether that be at your home, an assisted-living facility or nursing home.
  9. The younger you are when buying a policy, the less expensive it will be.
  10. A policy covering three to five years is adequate for most people.

This list will leave you with a ton of questions and most likely the need to speak with someone in more depth. Take advantage of experts featured at credit union Lunch & Learns. Unity One Credit Union is your source for all things financial.

Tackle debit card fraud with the help of your CU

tackleDebit card fraud is definitely on the rise, as criminals have gotten savvier in their attempts to steal identities. There is an estimated 547 million debit and prepaid card users in the U.S. by VISA and Mastercard compared to 519 million credit cards, according to the Nilson Report. Debit card fraud is expected to be an issue until chip technology can be used.

Ann Davidson, senior risk managament consultant for CUNA Mutual Group, says 80 percent of reports received at the organization are due to magnetic strip fraud. Mag strips enable "skimmers" to steal information. Chip technology increases security by making the magnetic strip obsolete.

Here's the story of how a debit card fraud ring in Montreal ran their scheme. By the way, they were busted this spring. Some members of the group modified ATM machines with fake PIN pads and tiny cameras; however, the most popular plot involved stealing point-of-sale PIN machines from retailers and businesses and changing them to suit their needs. According to police, terminals were taken around closing time, and technicians hacked into the computer processors that held sensitive information. Also, Bluetooth technology was used to remotely gather information. The terminals were then returned to businesses and remained in place for weeks while data was taken and recorded. Later, account information and PIN numbers were transferred to blank cards for "runners" to use in coordinated attacks.

It takes only minutes for thousands of dollars to be drained from various accounts. Most financial institutions monitor foreign activity. At Unity One Credit Union, the fraud department monitors fraud scores closely. The higher the number, the more likely fraud is to occur. When the number reaches a certain threshhold, transactions are automatically declined to protect the member. If you think your card information has been compromised, contact Unity One Credit Union immediately or go online for a debit card dispute form. Once the fraud department receives a cardholder dispute, provisional credit is given, and the matter is fully investigated.

Here are other things that you can do to tackle debit card fraud:

  • Let your credit union know when you are traveling. We know that it is highly incovenient and embarrassing when a transaction is not approved. That's why it is critical that you call our call center, and give us the heads up. That way, we know that charges that occur outside of your normal routine are not fraud.
  • Look for suspicious devices, or use do-it-yourself scanners. There is less chance that a dishonest employee could transfer your card information onto another device.
  • Be cautious of entering your debit card information online. Shop at reputable stores or major companies. Also, don't let your information be stored online. 
  • Mark through blank lines on receipts. Read your receipt carefully. You don't want the final amount that you are charged to be modified in any way.
  • Update virus and spyware protection on your computer. This will prevent thieves from covertly installing software on your personal computer and then remotely extracting information.

Anything you can do to make the thief's job harder is always a plus. However, if it doesn't work, your credit union has your back. You are not alone.

Six Tips to Save Money and Keep the Video Games You Love

Madden 13September 12 is National Video Game Day, and in honor of this holiday, Unity One Credit Union would like to share some tips for the consummate gamers out there.

As technology continues to advance and companies such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo develop more realistic and fun-family interactive games, so does the price associated with those video games and consoles.  Last week, a popular video game by EA Sports called Madden 13 was released, and in the first week it sold 597,452 copies in the U.S. alone (VgChartz.com).  The game retails for $59.99 at Game Stop, a popular video game retailer.  If you were to add up the sales of the video game for week one, sales would total over $35 million.  That is a lot of money!

When it comes to popular video games like Madden 13, many gamers and parents can relate with the strain that video games can put on a person’s wallet; especially, if you have more than one game console or child (we know kids sometimes don’t like to share).  However, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case if you follow these simple tips that will help you save money on video games:

  • Tip One:  Get a Rental Membership – This would have to be the best way to save money for those who love video games.  By getting a membership with a company such as GameFly, you can save lots of money.  They offer rates as low as $15.95/month for one game rental.  Order your game online, they mail it to you and you keep it as long you want.  Once you are done with it, simply return it in the prepaid envelope, and if you decide to keep it then you can purchase it at a discounted price.

  • Tip Two:  Play the Demo – Most video games retail at $59.99, and demos are free to download on to your game console. Also, by playing the demo, you can experience what the video game will be like before it is released.  In the case that you don’t like it no purchase has been made, and you save yourself $60. 

  • Tip Three:  Trade In Old Video Games – Along with buying pre-owned, you can also trade in your old video games.  Usually, you can receive store credit towards your next purchase or, in some cases, you can receive cash.  Again, the amount of money you receive depends on how old the video game is and the condition.CoD Black Ops cover

  • Tip Four:  Shop Around for the Best Deal – Sometimes with popular video games such as Madden 13, many retailers try to give you the best bargain by creating bundles.  For instance, Wal-Mart sometimes bundles a free month of Xbox Live with the purchase of a video game.  This is a great deal because one month of Xbox Live costs around $5 for month-to-month access.

  • Tip Five:  Buy Pre-Owned – Buying pre-owned can save you up to 20% off the original price of the video game or sometimes more depending on the release date of the video game.  GameStop offers pre-owned video games at discounted rate. 

  • Tip Six:  Delay the Purchase – If you have played the demo and liked the video game, delay the purchase.  In most cases, video games begin to drop in price after a couple of weeks and you can save yourself a couple of bucks.

Your credit union not only promotes savings, but it promotes spending wisely. So, next time you decide you want a new game but need to save a couple of bucks, try following the simple steps above.  Trust us; your wallet will thank you!

Credit unions aren't just for older people; they are for everyone!

Teen Advisory BoardBy Morgan Kelsey, former Unity One Teen Advisory Board member and student at Texas Tech University

Most people associate credit unions with their parents and grandparents. We rode with them to the credit union with excitement as we went through the drive thru and waited with anticipation for the candy that is usually distributed to kids in the car from the person behind the window. The tellers deposited or withdrew money, as instructed, and then sent the tube back with that cherished lollipop or hard candy or so we hoped. The candy was the exciting part as a kid, but as we mature there comes a time when we should realize that credit unions aren’t just for older people. They are for everyone, no matter the age.

Students in high school and college can find the services and opportunities beneficial to them through a credit union. Everyone wants to have a say, and that’s exactly what you get when you have an account at a credit union. There won’t be an older person with more say than you because they have been there longer.

Credit unions can teach you how to save money, get low cost loans and free services. A bank will just entice you with something that will distract you from expensive products and increasing fees.

Shareholders control banks and members control credit unions. In a bank, someone with lots of shares will have more say then you if you just have one share. The bank satisfies the few and not the many. In a credit union there are no shares and each member, no matter how rich they are or how involved within the credit union they are, will get the same vote you do. The vote weighs the same.

Isn’t it nice to know that you have a voice, even if you are young, not wealthy or have debt? I think it is. This is why credit unions are no longer for older people, they are for everyone.

A credit union COO's advice to his 21-year-old self

Credit union COO

By Scott Ward, Chief Operating Officer of Unity One Credit Union

Want a great conversation topic? Here’s one: “If you could have a face-to-face meeting with your 21-year-old self, what advice would you give?”  I’ve had more than one person ask me that one, and it can be both entertaining and enlightening. Recently, our Web boss asked me to write my answer with the caveat “about money and finances.” I’d like to think it was because I’m now wise about the subject matter, but just as likely, she wants to keep this brief, and I’ve got an awful lot to tell that young man.

In August of my 21st year, I was off to my senior year of college. I was an economics major and would be putting some money in my pocket from my first “banking” job, working part-time at a savings & loan near campus.

As odd as it may sound, through my schooling and that job, I actually knew more about what it took to operate a financial institution than what I knew about being a customer / member of one. Financial literacy education hadn’t been part of my curriculum in high school or college. After my dad taught me how to balance a checkbook, I pretty much did what seemed to be right, but often times, my financial decisions were based on my “wants” rather than my “needs” and certainly wasn’t based on a solid financial education.

With that, here’s my checklist for that hypothetical conversation with the 21-year old me.

  • Your dad meant it when he told you to keep track of your checking account balance. Those NSF fees are going to kill you.
  • That credit card offer? Throw it away. Stay debt-free while you can and you certainly don’t have the income to take on payments. The need for credit will come soon enough – just not now.
  • Credit cards should be for emergencies only – not so you can buy stuff you otherwise can’t afford. Comparing card offers, paying attention to rates, grace periods and annual fees. Choosing a credit card based on what it costs is way more valuable than the t-shirt they give you for applying.
  • How you pay your bills matters. Pay on time, and keep your credit score clean. If you don’t, your future auto and home purchases will all be more expensive just because you were too selfish or lazy to pay on time.
  • When you start working in the “real world," try to keep that part time job. You’re young, you’ve got the time and energy, and the extra money will come in handy.
  • PAY ATTENTION: Start saving 10% of everything you earn. It is a habit that should last your lifetime. You can live without a few of those “nice to have” things for a while. Saving early in your life, despite the challenge, is so worth it.
  • And now that I’ve convinced you to save, you may have read about that hot technology company that went public earlier this year that has already lost about half its value? Believe me, Apple stock is a steal at $1.81 a share…..

Scott Ward has been in the credit union industry 20+ years. Raised in Wisconsin and beginning his banking career in Minnesota, Ward relocated to Fort Worth with Unity One CU. He is currently the president of the award-winning Fort Worth Chapter of Credit Unions.

Family Financial Decisions

Latino familyProvided by Jimmy Grigsby, a financial representative with Allegiant Wealth Management, a MassMutual Agency; courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)

What is the sign of a good decision?®

It’s considering what’s best for your family when making financial decisions.

Although the American family has always been affected by economic shifts, the recent downturn has compelled many to reconsider their roles and relationships, to reevaluate their priorities and, in many cases, to simplify their active lives.

Families, finances and feelings

A recent study commissioned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and conducted by Forbes Consulting Group in 2009 titled, State of the American Family: Families, Financial Attitudes & Planning, focuses on families and finance.

The vast majority of family decision makers feel strongly about the well-being of their families and make many sacrifices to better the lives of their loved ones. They make conscious choices about things they consider important in their lives – their kids’ education, family and friends, and how they spend time and money. Yet, families are uncomfortably aware that future financial goals often take a back seat to the conveniences and necessities of daily lives. A slumping economy has made them question what they can do to maintain lifestyle priorities while improving long-term financial security.

Family first

A majority of families agree that raising their children is the most important thing in their lives and are willing to sacrifice job advancement to care for their children. They also consider what’s best for their families when making financial decisions.

Many parents want to help their children avoid the mistakes they made and have already begun seeking ways to educate their children about personal finance.

It’s never too early to start saving for college

Family decision makers endorse preparing early for the cost of their children’s college education and for teaching their children about personal finance. They are more likely to pay for college than to expect their children to foot the bill themselves.

The vast majority of parents believe it is never too early to begin saving for a child’s education, but when faced with competing financial demands, good intentions and reality often part ways. Half have started to save for college, and many agree that saving for their children’s education should be a higher priority. Unfortunately, there are still others who know they should be saving for their children’s college education but don’t have the money to start.

Responsible but not ready for retirement

Americans are caught between providing financial support for their children and saving enough money for their own retirement. Perhaps due to declining availability and access to pension plans, most people believe that saving for retirement is now an individual’s responsibility.

However, despite widespread acceptance of individual responsibility for retirement planning, “planning avoiders” say they have too many immediate financial concerns to save for retirement. Of those that are actively trying to save, very few feel confident that they are on the right course.

Do you sometimes feel caught between providing financial support for your children and saving enough money for your own retirement? Are you concerned that you aren’t doing the right things to prepare for your family’s future? Get help – contact your credit union or a trusted local financial professional to help you assess and address your family’s needs.

To learn more or access helpful materials, speak with your a representative of your credit union or a local financial professional and visit www.massmutual.com/families.

© 2012 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA 01111-0001 

Jimmy Grigsby is an agent of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) with Allegiant Wealth Management, 10000 N Central Expressway, Suite 1200, Dallas, TX 75231.

He is a registered principal of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services LLC, Member SIPC, 10000 N Central Expressway, Dallas, TX 75231 Phone# 972 348 6343.


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