Spending Freeze: Day 7

Today marks the one-week point in our 10-day freeze. We love the support and collaboration happening among you all. Just a few more days! It sounds like there are many worthy projects, items and events the prize money could contribute to.

Day 7 prompt: If you win the $250 prize, what will you do with it?

(Aside from this of course)

Three Affordable Summer Vacations Here in Missouri

Go See the Show-Me State

With school out and vacation days accrued, the temptation of a quick, inexpensive weekend away is getting stronger. You don’t need to hop on an airplane to satisfy your wanderlust – check out these three awesome retreats and getaways all across the state.

Johnson’s Shut-in State Park

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With 8,647 acres and camping, hiking, swimming and rock climbing available, Johnson’s Shut-in State Park is a place unlike any other. The “shut-ins” (an Ozark term) are deep narrow channels of the river flowing over large, smooth rocks, perfectly forming a natural water park. Could there be a better way to spend a hot summer’s day?

There are cabins available to rent but the park is well-equipped for camping, so pack up the tents. You can try your luck fishing for dinner in the Black River but just in case, throw in a few different meals.

Weston, Missouri 

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After you shop on the Plaza and catch a Royals game in Kansas City, Missouri, head over to Weston, Missouri. Less than an hour from Kansas City, this small town is the definition of charming. There are several bed-and-breakfasts to choose from but sleep can wait – explore the many antique shops, restaurants and wineries the town offers.

For the foodies among us, plan ahead and reserve your spot for dinner at Green Dirt Farm. This sheep farm has earned national awards for its cheeses, and the farm-to-table dinners pair its fresh offerings with local chefs. This is a dining experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Hermann, Missouri

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Headed east instead of west? Stop by Hermann, Missouri, for some rest and relaxation. This historic community is especially eventful during the summer months, with festivals and celebrations held nearly every weekend. If you need a break from the area’s wineries, you can check out the museums, many of which honor Hermann’s strong German heritage. Or, bring your bike and hop on the famous Katy Trail for a few miles of true outdoor Missouri beauty.

Mapping out and budgeting for your trip before you hit the road will help ensure that you don’t overspend. You may even consider downloading an app like Gas Buddy to ensure you fill up cheaper.

Where is your favorite getaway in Missouri? Any hidden gems? Share your favorite Missouri vacation memory with us in the comments.

The Long & Short of It: Disability Insurance and Why You Might Need It

It’s not something the majority of us think about (or even want to think about) but the facts are there. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire. Accidents and illnesses such as cancer or heart disease cause millions of Americans to lose their ability to work and support their families.

The stress of disability is compounded by more than physical pain – far too often people must confront a new, and frightening, financial future. Voluntary long- and short-term disability insurance is one step you can take to safeguard your finances from the unimaginable.

Long-term Disability

On average, long-term plans will typically cover 50 to 70 percent of a person’s lost wages. If you work fulltime, there’s a good chance that your company offers long-term disability coverage. Often, a group plan means an employer is able to spread out the costs of this type of insurance and will cover half or more and deduct the premium from employees’ paychecks. Some companies pay the entire cost for their employees.

Speak with your HR department to find out:

  • How long you must be employed before you qualify for long-term coverage.
  • When long-term coverage would kick in (typically 60 to 90 days after your injury or illness).
  • If there are limitations to how long your disability coverage will last. Some plans will only yield five or 10 years of coverage or until you’re eligible for social security benefits.

If your employer doesn’t offer long-term disability insurance, the good news is that individual plans are fairly inexpensive (depending on your age and occupation) and can be purchased from a broker, who will explain the rules and limitations of your plan.

Short-term Disability

Short-term disability coverage isn’t offered as regularly as its long-term counterpart due to high premiums for both companies and individuals. However, the limitations, such as how long you must carry the insurance before you can use its benefits or how long you must be employed to qualify are often similar. Again, speak with your HR department or a broker for an explanation of the fine print.

Short-term disability insurance normally covers a percentage of lost income for up to six months and may be a smart option for people:

  • With known physical or mental health issues.
  • Who participate in high-risk activities (talking to you, skydivers).
  • Who have long commutes to and from work.

Another group that benefits from short-term disability coverage is women who are planning to become pregnant. If your company doesn’t offer maternity leave or benefits, the supplementary income from short-term disability insurance could provide a much-needed windfall during a very expensive part of life.

Lastly, disability insurance may be a smart, gradual option for those without an emergency fund. Small premium payments can add up to a large cost-saving benefit in the long run. However, having disability insurance is not an excuse to avoid creating emergency funds. Even if you don’t use it for health-related expenses, building up a nest egg can keep you and your family on firm financial footing.

21 Things You Should Know About Money In Your 20s

In your 20s, anything is possible. At least, that’s what it feels like, right? For many, this decade means everything from graduating college and taking adventures to starting careers and families. With all these new beginnings, it’s equally important to start getting into some smart financial habits, too. Recently, we asked Missouri Credit Union employees what advice they wish they would have taken when they were in their 20s. Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Always enroll in the employers’ 401k plan, especially if they’re contributing or matching your deposits. –Jenn Clark, Personal Financial Officer
  1. Start saving for retirement with an IRA. –Tessa Wacker, Branch Manager
  1. You may think putting away $10 here and there will never add up but it does! Create special savings accounts for specific goals, like vacations or buying a home. –Sara Sauro, Branch Manager
  1. Open a college savings account on the day your kids are born. –Ross Smith, SVP/Operations
  1. I wish I had known how important credit is – I had no idea how much my credit score would affect my life. –Jessie Claycamp, Vault Teller
  1. Spend less and save more. –Cindy Campbell, AVP Retail Operations
  1. Follow the Rule of 72. Divide the interest rate into 72 and whatever the answer is will be how long it will take for your principal (starting sum) to double. –Jim Schepers, VP Human Resources
  1. Pay attention to your credit score. It could play a part in approving your apartment application and the amount of the deposit you may have to make. –Jenny Redmond, Teller Supervisor
  1. Never borrow or cosign for money unless you have every intention and ability to pay it back. Also, make sure you’re depositing funds into a savings account for the unexpected. If times get tough, stay in contact with your creditors. –Matt Langley, Collections Officer
  1. Start funding your 401K as soon as possible – you can take it with you no matter where you go. –Amanda Love, Branch Manager
  1. If your paycheck doesn’t cover your spending that means you don’t have the money. A credit card isn’t money; it’s debt. –Michael Taylor, Data Security Specialist
  1. Skip the daily coffee or soda and put that money into a savings account. Every time you accumulate $500, open a 60-month CD. –Norine Bailey, Personal Financial Officer
  1. It’s easier to build on zero, little or good credit than it is to repair bad credit. And bad credit will haunt you. –Jessie Kemble, Teller Supervisor
  1. I thought that I couldn’t save any money and had to live paycheck to paycheck, which isn’t the least bit true. Find a way to put away money – you’ll be grateful in the long run. –Margaret McDermott, SVP/Marketing
  1. Put more thought into planning for your retirement. The years go by quickly and your money will add up if you start early. –Debi Findley, Personal Financial Officer
  1. Make your payments on time. Those ‘little’ late fees add up and can take a big bite out of your finances. –Rachael Johnson, Collections Officer
  1. Have the money for your savings or 401k taken right out of your paycheck so you won’t see it or miss it. –Jackie Reehoff, Branch Manager
  1. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Prepare for the unexpected. –Karley Jeffrey, Real Estate Loan Representative
  1. Open only one – just ONE – major credit card and pay off balances as soon as possible. –Steph McDermott, AVP/Manager Call Center
  1. Life insurance is a necessity beyond what your job and loans offer. –Becca Varner, Personal Financial Officer
  1. Choose a career based on your passions, not on the projected salary. While money will make life a little easier, it will not necessarily make you happy. –Melinda Sirois, Call Center

MCU members, what advice do you wish you had taken when you were younger? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and in the comment section below.

Simple Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills

Whether you’re a homeowner or you rent an apartment or condo, the costs of your utilities is probably more than you’d like to pay. Here are some helpful hints and money-saving tips to help you keep your home, and wallet, cool.

H2-Oh!

Clean up your bad water habits by:

  • Switching to low-flow showerheads and reduce your water bill by 25 to 60 percent.
  • Watering your lawn in the early morning so it has time to soak into the soil before the sun comes out in full force.
  • Switching to a high-efficiency washer. Water companies often offer rebates to customers who make this upgrade.

Change it Up

Make a few small installations and put the extra money into savings:

  • Choose energy-plus light bulbs and low-wattage bulbs in rooms with more natural light.
  • Check your furnace filters every month and replace them at least every three to four months.
  • Add ceiling fans and cut back on the A/C when it’s hot outside (the fan should spin counterclockwise to push the hot air up and out. In winter, have the fan turn clockwise to keep heat indoors).

Into the Night

With these adjustments, you can even save money in your sleep:

  • Invest in a programmable thermostat. Turn down the A/C during the workday and program it to kick back on in the evening.
  • Run appliances during off-peak or nighttime hours. Use delay settings on your washer, dryer and dishwasher.
  • Unplug electronics at night! Some of the biggest electric energy waste sources are televisions and gaming systems. Use power strips to unplug all of your electronics at once.

You may also consider asking your utility company for a home inspection to check out window drafts and make sure your water heater or furnace is in good working order.

Looking for more money-saving tips? Talk to your Missouri Credit Union personal financial officer today.  

Keeping Your Credit Healthy

You eat fruits and vegetables to stay healthy and go to the gym to stay in shape. Having a credit card is no different and requires the same steady participation. Once you’ve established a line of credit, it’s your responsibility to stay actively involved. However, your diligence has its own rewards, such as lower APR rates and bonuses like cash back. Here are a few ways you can make sure your credit scores stay healthy.

Stay on It

Pay attention to what you’re spending. Too often, credit cards can feel like a free pass. Stay mindful of what and how much you purchase. When you get your statement, look it over and check for any inaccuracies to avoid being double-charged or becoming the victim of fraud (especially if you use your credit card for online shopping). Remember: you’re entitled to a free credit report once a year. Set a reminder on your calendar and stay informed.

Rethinking Repayment

A credit card isn’t for spending more than you earn. Think of your card as a 30-day loan that you need to pay back at the end of each month, and save accordingly. Of course, carrying a balance isn’t necessarily a bad thing but carrying a large balance can be. If you make a big purchase on your card, know how much you’ll need to repay each month to avoid additional interest charges.

Right on Time

One of the simplest and most effective ways you can keep your credit healthy is by making timely payments. Aside from hurting your credit score, the additional late fees can add up rapidly over the course of a year, costing you upwards of $300. For many, making more than one payment each month helps keep their credit in check, while helping sustain a steady cash flow for other expenses.

Thinking about opening a card or transferring a balance? Missouri Credit Union offers members a line of credit cards from Elan Credit Card Services. For more information, click here.