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Successful Ways to Save Money

America Saves Week is February 24 - February 29, 2020.  Saving money requires patience and discipline. When you achieve your financial goals, however, the results are so worth it!  Below are some ways to start saving (or keep saving):

  • Pay Yourself First - Treat savings like an important household bill. Set aside a part of each paycheck, even if it is only a small amount, and leave it there. Save automatically when possible.
  • Collect Coins - Put loose change into a can or jar. When the container is full, deposit the money into a savings account. Set aside $1 a day, plus loose change, and you should have about $50 a month, or $600 a year, saved. Save $2 a day, plus loose change, and you should have about $1,000.
  • Break Costly Habits - Track your spending for a month or two and pick a few places where spending can be cut back or cut out to “find” money to save. For example, brown bagging lunch two or three days per week could save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
  • Bank a Windfall - Save all or part of large, infrequent expected or unexpected sums of money. Examples of common financial windfalls include tax refunds, inheritances, awards and prizes, retroactive pay increases, and work bonuses.
  • Crash Save - Decide that, for a month or two, you will buy only absolute necessities and save any money that remains after paying bills. At the end of the crash savings time period, treat yourself and buy the item(s) that you were saving for. Then resume your “normal” spending habits or set a new crash savings goal.
  • Start a “Club” or "Special" Savings - Start a special savings plan to save money over the course of a year for holiday or vacation expenses.
  • Save Your “Extra” Paychecks - Mark your paydays each year on a calendar. If you are paid bi-weekly, in two months of the year, you will receive three paychecks. If you are paid weekly, there will be four months with five paychecks. Anticipate these months in advance and plan to save part of the “extra” paycheck.
  • Participate in a Tax-Deferred Retirement Plan - Reduce your salary via payroll deduction to save for retirement and aim to take maximum advantage of employer matching. Money contributed to a 401(k), 403(b), or similar retirement savings plan and earnings on these funds grow tax-deferred until withdrawal. 

(Source:  AmericaSaves.org)

Learn more at our new Financial Wellness Center!


Guide To Identity Theft Protection
Did you know there were 14.4 million victims of identity theft in 2018? According to Javelin Strategy, each case cost the victim an average of $1,050 - and that's only the cost in dollars. When an individual's identity is stolen, the thief wreaks major havoc on the victim's financial health, which can take months, or even years, to recover from.
 
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming the next victim. Here is your complete guide to identity theft protection.
 
1. Monitor your credit.  One of the best preventative measures you can take against identity theft is monitoring your credit. You can check your credit score for free on sites like CreditKarma.com and order an annual report once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditreport.com. Check your score for any sudden hits and look through your reports for suspicious activity. Be sure to review your monthly credit card bills for any charges you don't remember making.
 
2. Use strong unique passwords.  Never use identical passwords for multiple accounts. If you do so, you're making yourself an easier target for identity thieves. Instead, create strong, unique passwords for every account you use. The strongest passwords use a variety of letters, symbols and numbers, and are never mock-ups or replicas of popular phrases or words.  If you find it difficult to remember multiple passwords, consider using a free password service, like LastPass. You'll only need to remember one master password and the service will safely store the rest.
 
3. Only use Wi-Fi with a VPN.  Did you know you are putting your personal information at risk every time you use the free Wi-Fi at your neighborhood coffee shop (or any other public establishment)? When using public Wi-Fi, always choose a Virtual Private Network (VPN) instead of your default Wi-Fi settings to keep the sensitive information on your device secure.
 
4. Block robocalls.  Lots of identity theft occurs via robocalls in which the scammer impersonates a government official or the representative of a well-known company. Lower the number of robocalls reaching your home by adding your home number to the Federal Trade Commission's No Call List at donotcall.gov. It's also a good practice to ignore all calls from unfamiliar numbers, because each engagement encourages the scammers to try again.  
 
5. Upgrade your devices.  Whenever possible, upgrade the operating system of your computer, tablet and phone to the latest versions. Upgraded systems will keep you safe from the most recent security breaches and offer you the best protection against viruses and hacks.
 
6. Shred old documents.  While most modern-day identity theft is implemented over the internet or through phone calls, lots of criminals still use old-fashioned means to get the information they need. Dumpster-divers will paw through trashed papers until they hit upon a missive that contains personal information. It's best to shred all documents containing sensitive information as soon as you don't need them.
 
7. Keep personal information personal.  Never share sensitive data, like your Social Security number and banking PINs, with anyone. It's also a good idea to use the strongest, most private security settings on your social media accounts to keep hackers out.
 
8. Invest in identity theft protection.  If you're still nervous about being the next victim of identity theft, you may want to sign up for an identity-theft protection service. They don't come cheap, but services like LifeLock and IdentityForce will monitor your personal information online and immediately alert you about any suspicious activity.  
 
Identity theft can be an expensive nightmare. Be proactive about protecting your identity to keep your information and your money safe.

Important Update about your EMV Chip Debit Card

When you use an EMV chip-enabled debit card to make a payment, most merchants that are equipped with EMV chip card terminals give you the option of paying as either “Debit” or “Credit.” Either option may require you to enter your PIN.  Always inform the cashier "you want to choose credit.”  You might encounter the two options - US MasterCard or International MasterCard, always choose International MasterCard; and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  You may also see US MasterCard and MasterCard, choose MasterCard and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  Please note, you may still be required to enter a PIN, but as long as you select credit, International MasterCard or MasterCard, the transaction will be processed as a credit transaction and not Point of Sale (POS).  If you don't see these options, the merchant you are shopping with has decided for you; and they will only route it through US MasterCard as a POS transaction.

Many members who make purchases with their debit cards at certain retailers, no longer have the option of choosing “Credit” when making their payment. Unfortunately, some stores have made the business decision to require their customers using a debit card to use the “Debit” option and enter their PIN, thus making the “Credit” option unavailable. When your purchase, if over $50, goes through as a pin-based POS debit transaction, it will incur a nominal 50 cent fee.

If a retailer does not permit you to select “credit” at the sale terminal, you have the following options:

  • Complete the transaction and pay a 50 cent fee
  • Cancel out of transaction; and pay with a First Service VISA Credit Card instead
  • Cancel out of the transaction and pay with a check or cash

Let your voice be heard!  If a retailer tells you that you no longer have an option on how to pay for your transaction – we encourage you to call or write the store. Let them know that as a consumer, you want them to bring back your choice on how you pay for your purchases.

Click here for additional free Consumer Protection links to protect your identity and personal information.