Paving the Path to Stability

Navigating the chaos of everyday life is not for the faint of heart. Throw managing your finances into the mix and now you have the perfect storm for stress and burnout. That is, unless you are a member of a credit union that has your back during some of the most difficult times in your life. Here at SunWest, we know just how overwhelming things can get when it comes to your finances and we strongly believe everyone needs a partner to help them on their journey.

Navigating the chaos of everyday life is not for the faint of heart. Throw managing your finances into the mix and now you have the perfect storm for stress and burnout. That is, unless you are a member of a credit union that has your back during some of the most difficult times in your life. Here at SunWest, we know just how overwhelming things can get when it comes to your finances and we strongly believe everyone needs a partner to help them on their journey.

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Take control of your future with our financial education series called “Ask SunWest.” This program was designed with you in mind. The student who just graduated high school and is now approaching the daunting task of shifting from carefree teenager to college student, on their own for the first time. The 22-year-old who just secured that beloved first job and is on the way to learning how to adult. Or perhaps you’re the new parents trying to find enough money for bills, diapers, formula, food, date nights, and house repairs (since the roof will inevitably start leaking). Whoever you are, and whatever walk of life you are from, SunWest wants you to know that we see you and we are here to help!

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Send us your questions via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the comment section right here on our blog and we’ll do our best to guide you through all things money related.

Our first series will discuss the importance of establishing a solid financial foundation through saving money and investing in your future self.

Check out our first video brought to you by our very own Joseph Folan, and stay tuned for the next video in the series. Here’s to dodging obstacles, jumping hurtles, and living life on your own terms!

Protecting Your Personal Information Online

Most people nowadays spend a lot of time online. We use the internet for research, keeping up relationships, ordering food, and so much more! But with all we do online, we need to also be careful about how much information we put out there. Everyone should be aware of the dangers and doing their best to protect their identity from those who want to steal it.

Most people nowadays spend a lot of time online. We use the internet for research, keeping up relationships, ordering food, and so much more! But with all we do online, we need to also be careful about how much information we put out there. Everyone should be aware of the dangers and doing their best to protect their identity from those who want to steal it.

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A good place to start is by having passcodes on all your devices – phone, computer, laptop, anything. There are a bunch of options these days – from a password, to a PIN number, to facial recognition! Along with your devices, make sure to secure your online accounts. Each one should have its own strong, unique password with numbers, upper and lower case letters, and even symbols, if the website allows. Use a password manager if it gets hard remembering each one on your own!

It also helps to learn how to spot scams. Some phishing scams may be obvious, but there are plenty that are disguised well. Never click on any link sent to you through e-mail, social media messaging, IMs, or elsewhere unless you’re 100% sure you can trust it. For example, if you got an e-mail that looks like it’s from your bank, don’t just click whatever link they’ve given you. Open up a new tab and go to the site yourself so you can be sure you’re on the official website.

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Make sure to stay alert out there. Avoid anything that feels at all suspicious to you. It’s better to take that extra step of opening your phone with a password or searching for the official site. The alternative could be a stolen identity! Make sure to keep an eye on your credit card transactions and credit score as well, so you can be more likely to catch any problems early.

Get to Know Your Credit Score

Have you ever been uncertain about what the point of a credit score is? And how do you improve it? A credit score is a number that represents your creditworthiness. Basically, lenders use it to decide whether or not they want to offer you credit, like in a loan or credit card, and what kind of offer they’ll give you. The better credit score you have, the better deal you get, like a lower interest rate or down payment.

Have you ever been uncertain about what the point of a credit score is? And how do you improve it? A credit score is a number that represents your creditworthiness. Basically, lenders use it to decide whether or not they want to offer you credit, like in a loan or credit card, and what kind of offer they’ll give you. The better credit score you have, the better deal you get, like a lower interest rate or down payment.

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There are multiple credit scores you might get, because there are multiple credit-scoring companies, such as FICO or VantageScore. Depending on the loan you’re getting, you could have yet another score. Don’t worry about checking your score through credit-monitoring tools, such as through your bank account’s extra tools online. Only hard inquiries, like you would get when applying for a credit card or loans, will cause a dip in your score – but even that’s temporary.

Some people believe closing your unused card accounts can improve your score, but the average age of your accounts is a big part of it. So keeping your oldest card accounts can still help. Along those lines, only apply for new lines of credit as needed – you don’t want too many hard inquiries, or any more temptation to overspend. Lastly, paying your bills in full and on time might not build your credit much, but it’s still important, because if you don’t then your score will be hurt by it.

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Credit unions like SunWest have “credit builder loans” to help you establish credit or improve your current score. The payments you make on the loan go into a certificate, and once you pay off the loan the funds are all returned to you. It’s a simple way to add to your payment history that’s being reported to the credit bureau.

Now that you know what a credit score is, check out your own. Generally, a good credit score is above 700, and if you’re above 760 it could be considered excellent. The higher the credit score, the better rates you’ll get when making big purchases, like buying a home or a car. If you need to improve your score, start working on some of our suggestions now so you can benefit sooner rather than later!

Making Smarter Financial Decisions

Sometimes it can be really hard to know what to do with your money. Should you invest now, or wait? When should you write up your will? Do you really need that insurance, or will you never use it? These decisions can be difficult enough on their own, but even worse when emotions come into it. So what can we do about them?

Sometimes it can be really hard to know what to do with your money. Should you invest now, or wait? When should you write up your will? Do you really need that insurance, or will you never use it? These decisions can be difficult enough on their own, but even worse when emotions come into it. So what can we do about them?

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Try not to rush into a decision. A person selling you something might try to create a sense of urgency, but it’s always better to take as much time as you can to think through something that will involve a good amount of money. Think about not only the cost of this option but of other options. Find out what’s involved in getting rid of the product or service – how long will it take? Are there fees? Consider the worst-case scenario you face with it. Then you’ll be creating a more solid overall picture that you can look at with less stressful emotions taking over.

It can be hard to think about what can go wrong, but it’s good to be prepared. You don’t want to put off an important financial step, like buying life insurance or preparing your will, just because you don’t want to consider something bad happening too soon. Think about it in a different way: what do you or your loved ones have to lose if the worst happens? If the loss isn’t something that’s easily dealt with, then it’s time to prepare with investments, insurance, and so on.

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Of course, you also don’t have to make these important decisions on your own. Try to find an expert in the area you’re dealing with to help you out. Be careful, as not all financial advisors are required to put your interests ahead of their own! But if you find someone trustworthy, the cost of their opinion could end up being way less than the cost of making a mistake. So when you need to make an important financial decision, take a step back and do your best to find the right option for you!

Got Money Back After Doing Taxes?

You’ve hopefully filed your taxes by now. Maybe you had to pay more, but maybe you’re getting a refund! If so, do you know what you’re going to do with it? While it might be fun to spend it all on a treat, how about putting some of it toward something more beneficial in the long run?

You’ve hopefully filed your taxes by now. Maybe you had to pay more, but maybe you’re getting a refund! If so, do you know what you’re going to do with it? While it might be fun to spend it all on a treat, how about putting some of it toward something more beneficial in the long run?

If you owe any money on loans or credit card debt, you could start by making an extra payment or two. It’s best to put your money toward the highest-interest debt first. This might also positively impact your credit score!

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You can donate to charity – it’s not always easy to find the extra money during the rest of the year, but now you’ll have some. Not only will it make you feel good to pick your favorite cause to support, but you can claim it as a tax deduction next year.

Another good use for some of your money would be adding to your emergency fund – or starting one, if you haven’t already. It doesn’t hurt to have some backup money for those unexpected events like your fridge breaking down or losing your job. With anywhere from three to eight months’ worth of savings being suggested, that can take a while to build up if you’re just taking a little out of each paycheck. The tax refund could help boost your emergency fund a bit more quickly.

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Of course, it doesn’t hurt to spend some of your refund on something you’ve wanted for a while. From a nice dinner for yourself or your loved ones, to a more substantial vacation, just try not to get carried away. You could even use it to improve on your own well-being: maybe buy a new mattress if you haven’t been sleeping comfortably, or get a gym membership for a year if you have a goal of getting healthier.

Whatever you choose, if you’re lucky enough to get a tax refund, put it to good use! Check out these articles for more ideas. Let us know what you plan to do in the comments below or on social media!

Stay Safe At ATMs

How often do you go to an ATM? A lot of transactions happen online these days, but there are still plenty of people that have to visit a teller, whether human or automated. ATMs can be pretty convenient – but are you making sure you and your information are safe?

How often do you go to an ATM? A lot of transactions happen online these days, but there are still plenty of people that have to visit a teller, whether human or automated. ATMs can be pretty convenient – but are you making sure you and your information are safe?

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Do your best to have a good awareness of what’s around you when you go to an ATM. It helps to be in a public location with good lighting whenever you can. And of course, you want to be careful with your pin. Don’t write it on the back of your card! Memorize it and try to make sure others can’t see you typing it in. If anything about the ATM or people around you seems suspicious, leave and contact the police and/or bank as soon as possible.

Have you come to withdraw cash? Put it away quickly, and wait until you’re safely in your car to count it! Similarly, if you’re going to make a deposit, have your cash or check ready to go. You don’t want to be digging around in your wallet or purse while standing in front of the ATM, whether you’re alone or there’s a line behind you. If you feel like the ATM’s not working normally, don’t let strangers help you. Make sure to go to the branch staff for help.

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Stay safe by being alert and aware of your surroundings. Your information should be kept secret so that your account and the money in it can’t be taken advantage of. But when it comes down to it, your safety is more important than money. If someone tries to forcefully take your cash or card at an ATM, give it to them! You can always call the police and the bank right after so the situation can be handled. You are the priority. It’s not that often that something bad will happen at an ATM, but make sure you don’t take the convenience for granted.

Managing Your Money in College

We know college is a huge expense, especially if you don’t get a lot of scholarships or grants. The average yearly tuition can be anywhere from around $10,000 to $25,000, and that’s just for a public four-year college. Getting financial aid can be a huge help and students should focus their efforts there. However, they shouldn’t forget they will still need to manage their money well in order to not go into more debt than necessary!

We know college is a huge expense, especially if you don’t get a lot of scholarships or grants. The average yearly tuition can be anywhere from around $10,000 to $25,000, and that’s just for a public four-year college. Getting financial aid can be a huge help and students should focus their efforts there. However, they shouldn’t forget they will still need to manage their money well in order to not go into more debt than necessary!

However you get your funds, from scholarships to loans to a job, make sure to live within your means. Don’t spend the money just because you have extra from your loan that didn’t all get used up on tuition and books and rent. Everyone needs to enjoy themselves a little bit, but don’t go wild. Save now so that you don’t have to keep living like a student after you graduate.

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If you find yourself running out of money, go to your college’s financial aid office. They can often help you find more sources of funding. Just remember, taking out loans should be a last resort! You don’t want to add more to your debt than you already have, if you can help it. Similarly, be careful with your credit cards. A lot of them can have high interest rates, and it’s so easy to spend money that you might spend too much too quickly without even realizing!

Use a money management tool like Microsoft Money or Mint.com to record your spending. You can keep track of how much you spend on needs versus wants. Everyone has had to figure out how to balance the two at some point in their life! The sooner you start, the sooner you can take control of your spending habits! Budgeting will help a lot, and you can try other helpful things too, like the envelope system. Every month, you keep just enough cash in envelopes for things like food and gas, and only spend what’s in the envelope for those categories. A system like this can keep you from overspending.

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Start working on good money habits now so that it will be easier for you as time goes on. You’ll feel much more prepared for life after school if you already have a head start on knowing how to manage your finances! Making payments on debts like student loans can help your credit score, but not if you’re behind. There are plenty of apps to help you budget and stay on track. For another step in the right direction, check out our Journey Accounts for young adults. If you have any questions, leave us a comment or come talk to us in person at any of our branches!

Start The New Year Off Right

Are you ready for the New Year? There isn’t much more time until 2019 is here! What are your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe you’ve got at least one that has to do with you money situation. If so, here are some ideas on how to start yourself off right and make 2019 your best financial year yet.

Are you ready for the New Year? There isn’t much more time until 2019 is here! What are your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe you’ve got at least one that has to do with you money situation. If so, here are some ideas on how to start yourself off right and make 2019 your best financial year yet.

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In any plan, it always helps to be organized – but even more so for your finances. Make sure to set solid goals. You can start with the year, then see how you can break down the steps to get there by each month. Then break the steps down even further to what you can do each week to stay on track. It may or may not be easy for you to write out these steps to your goals, but once you are done, the most important thing will be to stick to them.

Maybe you want to lower your utility bills. Maybe you want to put more into your savings. Maybe you’re trying to pay off your debt. Whatever you’re aiming for, try to start with steps that are small and doable so you can build yourself up to making bigger and bigger changes. Check out here how you can work on this plan.

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If you don’t have any financial resolutions for 2019, maybe you’ll think of some now! You might be in a financial situation you’re happy with already, but in that case, you could help out someone else. Teach your kids or a friend or other family member how you got to where you are so they can improve their money habits too. So what are your New Year’s resolutions? Comment here or on our social media pages, you could end up inspiring others to do the same!

What Are Personal Loans?

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the loans you have to pay off? Maybe you just wish you had enough extra money so you can finally afford that vacation you’ve been saving up for. You could be planning on renovating your home, or thinking about the dream wedding you’ve always wished for. Maybe an unexpected and unavoidable expense came up, like a trip to the hospital. No matter what the occasion, a personal loan could be the help you’re looking for.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the loans you have to pay off? Maybe you just wish you had enough extra money so you can finally afford that vacation you’ve been saving up for. You could be planning on renovating your home, or thinking about the dream wedding you’ve always wished for. Maybe an unexpected and unavoidable expense came up, like a trip to the hospital. No matter what the occasion, a personal loan could be the help you’re looking for.

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One of the best things about a personal loan is that it can be used for practically anything.  It could be that your fridge just broke down and you need a new one right away but didn’t have enough saved up for it. Or you might want to go a little bigger this year on presents during the holidays. It’s a great way to consolidate high-interest debt too, maybe pay off a few loans then only have the personal loan left to manage. Whatever you need the money for, it’s there for you.

Personal loans require no collateral – just your signature! It’s simple and easy and isn’t that what we need more of in our lives? That also means less paperwork – so you save time when applying as well. It’s not often that dealing with large sums of money can have so little stress coming with it.

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What would you use a personal loan for? There are infinite possibilities, limited only by your imagination and what you feel you need most right now. Don’t let a big purchase or surprise costs upset your plans. Find out more about our current winter personal loans and contact us with any more questions you might have!

SunWest Member Stories

At SunWest Federal Credit Union, our employees have the ability to participate in our Pay It Forward program whenever they judge appropriate. We have many deserving members who we want to go above and beyond for every day, but sometimes, there is a person who clearly needs a little extra help. Check out a few of these stories of our branch representatives helping out our members going through hard times.

At SunWest Federal Credit Union, our employees have the ability to participate in our Pay It Forward program whenever they judge appropriate. We have many deserving members who we want to go above and beyond for every day, but sometimes, there is a person who clearly needs a little extra help. Check out a few of these stories of our branch representatives helping out our members going through hard times.

Branch representative Cindy met Luis when he came into the branch to get a loan. When she asked what the loan was for, he answered, “to pay his rent and bills because he was robbed and knife point last night. He told me everything that happened and was very lucky to be alive”. Unfortunately, Luis was not approved for the loan – but then Cindy remembered our Pay It Forward program and luckily SunWest was able to help our member. The next day, when he came in to get his cash, Luis was very happy.  Cindy recalls, “He said in his 70 years no one has ever helped him. He was so grateful  and wanted to pay the Credit Union back and I told him he didn’t have to we are a family here at the Credit Union and were here to help our family. He gave me a hug and said he will never forget our kindness”. Great job using our program to do some good, Cindy!

IMG_0125.JPGMore recently, Assistant Branch Manager Reanna met a member named Amaris.  Reanna said, “she just became a mother for the first time in October and the father left the picture shortly before the baby was born. She is young, on her own and having a hard time making ends meet”. So, Reanna decided to help out Amaris with money from the Pay It Forward budget. Thanks for helping out the new mother, Reanna!

Member Service Director Rosanne Aviles was sent a story about two of our employees, Sandi and Bobi. They were able to create “a raving fan out of a non-member”. Their dedication to customer service inspired the non-member to write out a letter expressing their appreciation. As Rosanne said, “Sandi & Bobi’s patience and understanding made a real difference in this person’s life. The fact that they did this at 5 minutes to close makes it even that much more impressive. It is an important reminder that we never know what someone is going through”. Sandi and Bobi had no idea when they stepped up and gave superior service. See the letter below for the full story.SunWest fan letter-page-001.jpgThese stories are just a few examples of how SunWest sets itself apart from other banks and credit unions. Our employees truly care and want to help all our members as best we can. Do you have a story about our team going the extra mile for you or someone you know? Let us know in the comments how we were able to exceed your expectations!