Keep Your Finances Safe This Season

During the holidays, incidents of fraud increase. Scammers are on the rise as they do their best to take advantage of the busy time of year. Don’t let them sneak past your defenses – be aware of how they might try to trick you, and what you can do to protect yourself.

During the holidays, incidents of fraud increase. Scammers are on the rise as they do their best to take advantage of the busy time of year. Don’t let them sneak past your defenses – be aware of how they might try to trick you, and what you can do to protect yourself.

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SunWest will never ask you to send your personal or financial information in response to or via a link in an e-mail. We will never initiate a phone call asking for financial information such as your account numbers, social security number, or account balances. We will only ask for specific information to verify your true identity when you initiate a call with SunWest, before disclosing any financial information to you.

Many fraudulent schemes also involve asking you to purchase gift cards. SunWest will not ask you to send any gift cards or other monetary equivalent if something is wrong with your account. Also be wary of giving money to online retailers or even charities (you can verify them here) you aren’t familiar with.

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You should always be vigilant around any suspicious calls, e-mails, or even social media messages that seem to come from a financial institution. Elderly people have a higher chance of being targeted, but everyone should be on the lookout. The fraudsters will often try to frighten you into making a quick decision, while legitimate institutions are likely to give you time to think things over.

If in doubt, please call us for verification, or to report fraud or any suspicious activity, at 602-866-1100. For more ways you can prevent fraud, read these prevention tips. We would much rather you be safe than sorry this holiday season!

A Little Goes A Long Way

Who doesn’t look forward to not having to work when they’re older? But to make that happen, you must start right away. The sooner you begin saving money, the more comfortable you’ll be in your retirement – or the earlier you can retire. Get your long-term savings ready now so you can relax later!

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Add to your long-term savings every month. Start as early as possible, so your money will have more time to work for you. If you’re in your 20s and save $200 a month, you can make your goal more easily, while if you’re in your 40s when you start, you might need $600 a month to meet the same retirement goal. You don’t want to have to deal with a huge drop in your allowance when you retire and then have to tighten your budget suddenly, so plan now.

You should also be depositing money into your 401k every month. You decide how much money you want moved from each paycheck to your 401k – even starting with 2% could make a huge difference in the long run. Some employers will match your contribution. Take advantage of that offer and sign up for it right away! The difference between this and a savings account is that you can’t easily take money out of your 401k for emergencies, as it’s intended to stay there until your retirement. It’s a great way to make sure you stick to your plan!

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Beginning your savings journey by setting aside a little at a time can make all levels of saving much less daunting, and much easier to manage. Watch our Ask SunWest episode on Long-Term Savings, then check out the rest of our series. Have more questions on savings or other financial topics? Send us a message or leave a comment so we can answer it in a future video!

Navigate Life With Confidence

Your extended family is going to go on a long cruise vacation next year. You and your spouse are planning on buying your first house together. Your doctor has recommended you get laser eye surgery to help improve your sight. What do all these have in common? They require medium-term savings!

Your extended family is going to go on a long cruise vacation next year. You and your spouse are planning on buying your first house together. Your doctor has recommended you get laser eye surgery to help improve your sight. What do all these have in common? They require medium-term savings!

Be sure to have your emergency fund set up first. Once you’ve amassed enough short-term savings, you’re ready to start saving up for bigger, planned purchases! We all have some kind of big-ticket item we’ve been thinking about that will take a while to get to because of the large amount of money it requires.

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These purchases add value to your life. Sure, you could survive in your small apartment as you start your family, but why not save up for a nice house in a good neighborhood that has an extra room or two for the kids? You might be fine taking the bus to work every day, but wouldn’t your own car save you time you could spend on something more fun or productive? Not waiting in the heat, rain, or cold winds would be an added bonus!

So, once you’ve built up your short-term savings to a comfortable level, start on your medium-term savings. Preparing to cover your tuition so you don’t have to work as much during college, getting ready for that surgery so you don’t have to take out another loan at the time of the procedure, or wanting to be able to pay your own way through your adventure in another country are all solid reasons to begin planning now.

Start out by determining the total cost, then split it up to see if you can save that amount in the time you have. If your vacation will cost $6,000, and you wanted to go in a year, you would need to save at least $500 a month. If that isn’t doable for you right now, you might want to put off your vacation until you’re sure you can pay for it. The same applies to any other large planned purchase. There are other ways to save as well, such as starting with $10 from your first paycheck and doubling the amount you save at each paycheck ($20, $40, $80, $160, etc.). Find the savings plan that fits your goals and way of thinking best so you will feel motivated to keep it up and not be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of money you are building toward.

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Setting aside a little money at a time will help you navigate through life with more confidence and less stress! Watch our Ask SunWest episode on Medium-Term Savings, then check out the rest of our series. Have more questions on savings or other financial topics? Send us a message or leave a comment so we can answer it in a future video!

More Than Just A Number

Finding a financial institution that fits your needs can be tough. Sure, you need a place that offers the basic accounts such as checking and savings. But your finances aren’t just for everyday purchases – they hold the key to your dreams for the future. You need an institution that understands who you are, not as a number that it can profit from, but as a person with unique needs and goals.

Finding a financial institution that fits your needs can be tough. Sure, you need a place that offers the basic accounts such as checking and savings. But your finances aren’t just for everyday purchases – they hold the key to your dreams for the future. You need an institution that understands who you are, not as a number that it can profit from, but as a person with unique needs and goals.

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Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions that were created with people in mind. They are also owned by you, the member, rather than outside investors trying to squeeze every penny out of each customer. Plus, they’re much more inclusive than people might think – for example, anyone who lives, works, or worships in Arizona can join SunWest!

Credit unions are also located all over the world! Thanks to the credit union shared branching network, you have so many more locations to stop at in addition to our 8 local branches. We know that convenience is important to you, whether you need to complete a transaction on your way to pick up the kids after work, deposit a check before getting to campus for classes, or simply dealing with the hustle and bustle of daily life. The network includes more than 5,600 branches nationwide, so whether you’re a neighborhood away or traveling across the country, you’re covered!

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Some places are constantly trying to sell you products you don’t need while credit unions are more transparent when it comes to your banking. Our goal is to improve your financial health and keep money in your pockets. Along those lines, SunWest doesn’t charge ATM or account maintenance fees, so you aren’t paying to access your own money. We’re also launching a financial education program to empower our members to take control of their financial journey and better their situation.

What else makes a community better? Volunteering! From the Phoenix Zoo to Ben’s Bells, Andre House to Casa Maria, our employees have volunteered at a wide variety of organizations. We’ve been brought to tears by the emotional stories of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and couldn’t hold back our smiles when taking care of dogs at the Maricopa County Animal Shelter. From people, to animals, to the environment, we want to aid in bettering our neighborhoods.

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So why not bank with an institution that’s better than a bank? Our members matter not because of the money they bring us, but because of the people they are. We’re part of the same community as you, and we want us to all grow together. So the next time you’re in the neighborhood, stop by a branch so we can introduce ourselves, and prove to you: credit unions care about you.

Worth Its Weight In Gold

You’ve probably heard a lot about credit and how important it is. But what’s the big deal? There’s so much in your everyday financial situation to keep up with. If you continue to pay the minimum  on your credit card, you should be good, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

By Misty W.

You’ve probably heard a lot about credit and how important it is. But what’s the big deal? There’s so much in your everyday financial situation to keep up with. If you continue to pay the minimum  on your credit card, you should be good, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Sooner or later in life, you’ll most likely need to get a loan. Need help with your tuition payments? Time to buy a new car? Ready to get your own home? Time to apply for a loan! When you apply, lenders will look for credit experience, which tells them how responsible and how consistent you are with your payments. The better credit score you have, the more likely it is you’ll receive a better rate. Now, many will focus on their monthly payment being manageable – but the lower rate you have, the less you’ll pay overall!

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You build credit worthiness by making consistent payments on bills and loans; the longer the better. Lenders base the limit of what you can borrow on your credit experience.  Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to pay cash for everything and doesn’t want credit cards or loans, because you don’t want to deal with any debt. While this is understandable, it’s incredibly important that you to have some kind of credit established. It helps lenders to see how much they can trust you to maintain a loan.

To build your credit, don’t overextend yourself with several different credit cards. Many businesses offer a variety of deals to encourage you to sign up for their particular card, we know! But this can cause a “high debt-to-income ratio”, meaning you have too much debt. The ratio is calculated by taking the amount of debt you have versus the income you’re getting.

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Remember, it is perfectly okay to have a few credit cards, but try to only use them in emergencies. We understand that life happens and sometimes your credit line is the best option, but try not to use more than half of the available credit. It’s important not to max them out because using the entire allowable balance can have a negative impact on your credit score. Plus, once they are at maximum, it can be more difficult to pay them off; especially as high as some of the credit card rates are. Keep in mind, negative credit can remain in your credit history for 7 years and bankruptcies can remain for 10 years. Why risk that kind of stress?

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So when making payments on your credit card or loan, try to pay more than the minimum and stay consistent. If they have a 0% interest rate, you definitely want to take advantage of that. Not having to pay any more than you already spent is the way to go! To pay off your balance during that promotional period, set up your own payment plan for the length of the offer period to make sure it will be paid off by that expiration date. That will save you a lot of money in the long run, a goal we always encourage!

If you have any questions related to your credit, send them to us via social media or the comments down below!

 

Don’t Let the Unexpected Sneak Up On You

It’s easy to look at a seemingly daunting task and think, “That’s too much to tackle right now – I’ll do it later when I’m ready.” More often than not, we end up putting it off again and again until it’s too late. By that point, things are worse than if we’d accomplished the difficult task in the first place.

When it comes to finances, a lot of us put off saving because those goals seems highly unattainable. We know saving is important but we aren’t sure how to put aside money when there’s so much that you have to spend your money on right now. It’s time to end the cycle!

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Starting with short-term savings, you should be making sure to set aside enough to cover emergency expenses. You don’t want to get stuck with a flat tire or broken A/C unit and not be able to pay for repairs. Some emergencies, like not being able to drive your own car, can lead to more expenses the longer you can’t fix the problem!

Some say that you should set aside three to six months of income, or have enough to cover three to six months of bills. Of course, the more you save, the better. But the most important thing to do is just start! Even if it’s just $10 from each paycheck, that’s better than nothing. Try to increase it every time – maybe next you’ll put $20 in savings, then $40, then $80… Soon you’ll find that you’ve got a good amount ready for emergencies, when it seemed like it would be so hard to get to.

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Think of it not just as putting money into a backup stash, but as investing in your future self. When your next unexpected expense sneaks up on you, you’ll be thanking your past self!

Watch our Ask SunWest episode on Short-Term Savings, and stay tuned for more in this series! If you have any questions on savings or another topic you’d like us to cover, send us a message or leave us a comment!

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!

What Is A 401k?

If you’re starting your first full-time job in college or right after you graduate, you might begin to hear a lot more about contributing to a 401k. But what does that mean? How does it help you? A 401k can actually help you prepare for your future when your career has just begun.

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A 401k is a retirement savings plan. Only an employer can sponsor one for their employees, and not all employers offer one. It allows you to choose how much money you want taken from each paycheck – before taxes are taken out – and deposited into the plan. So, any contribution you make will have great tax benefits.

Even putting just 1 or 2% of your paycheck into a 401k can make a big difference in the long run. But remember, it’s a plan for retirement, not savings. The money you invest in a 401k won’t be easy to withdraw, so don’t plan on accessing it for an emergency. The rules for taking money out are complex and there can be costly penalties.

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Sometimes, employers will also contribute a certain amount into your 401k. They might go so far as to match the amount you’re depositing from your own paycheck. Whether or not they do, you should contribute as much as you can afford to. It will be invested into different areas of the financial market, and the sooner you start investing, the more time it has to grow. You want to be able to pay all your bills after you retire!

So get that 401k started today. Got any more questions about this retirement savings plan? Leave a comment here or on our social media!

Saving Money on Your Cell Phone Bill: Part 2

If cell phone bills are getting you down, try out these tips to save some money! Cell phones may be a big part of daily life for most people, but huge costs don’t have to be.

By Brett W.

Go here for Part 1!

2 – Switch to an MVNO

A what?  An MVNO or Mobile Virtual Network Operator.  In the USA there are four major networks – Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.   They are the most expensive options when it comes to cell service, because they own and operate their own networks (cell towers, hubs, frequencies, and so on).  MVNOs rent network access from the “Big Four”.  Where they have no network to maintain, their overhead is often much lower.  This allows some of them to offer inexpensive service and some unique plans.

For instance, Google owns an MVNO called Google Fi.  They allow you to pay for only as much data as you use. Other MVNOs are also extremely affordable.  Take the example of Mint Mobile.  They offer three months of wireless service that includes: Unlimited calls, unlimited texting, three gigs of data, and international calling to Mexico and Canada for $15 plus taxes.  Are you a data hog?  Bump the data up to 12 gigs a month and the price goes up to $25.

For a list of MVNOs check out https://bestmvno.com/mvnos/ .  You may be surprised by how many options there are.

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3 – Buy an unlocked phone

Many people do not own their phones. The cost of their phones is either built into their base plan or being paid for through a monthly installment that is added to their bill. Did you know you can buy a phone directly from the manufacturer? They call this an “Unlocked” phone, since it’s not tied to a major carrier like AT&T. In many cases you can activate your unlocked phone on any network you want.

There are a number of reasons to buy an unlocked phone, but for this post we’ll only focus on one. There are no hidden costs or fees. Some unlocked phones are less expensive, while offering a great value. Motorola sells the vast majority of their phones directly or through Amazon (you can find a huge selection of unlocked phones on Amazon). Some of their phones cost less than $200 and offer many of the features of the $1000 “flagship” phones. By purchasing a $200 unlocked phone instead of a $1000 “flagship” phone from the big networks, you could save not only the $800, but also lower your monthly cellphone bill, since you will not be making the installment payments.

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If cell phone bills are getting you down, try out these tips to save some money! Cell phones may be a big part of daily life for most people, but huge costs don’t have to be. Let us know if you have any other ideas by commenting here or on our social media!

Saving Money on Your Cell Phone Bill: Part 1

In the last ten years, cell phones have transitioned from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” service.  In many cases they have replaced land lines and other traditional phone services. Where cell service has become essential for many, finding a way to keep the associated costs to a minimum has become more important than ever. So how can you save money on your cellphone bill?

By Brett W.

In the last ten years, cell phones have transitioned from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” service.  In many cases they have replaced land lines and other traditional phone services. Where cell service has become essential for many, finding a way to keep the associated costs to a minimum has become more important than ever. So how can you save money on your cellphone bill?

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1 – Call your current carrier

This one might sound laughable, but it’s the easiest way to find savings.  When you call your carrier, tell them you are unhappy with the price you are paying and ask if there is anything they can do to lower your bill.

In most cases they will focus on two areas – your plan and your “extras”.  Most of them will look at your plan and see if they can transition you to a less expensive plan.  The vast majority of people paying for such services as “unlimited data” never use enough data to warrant the cost.

Services such as insurance, visual voicemail, and more, often come at a cost.  Removing the services you no longer need or use can also lower your bill.

Check out Part 2!