Neighborhood News, July 2012

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Your Neighbors new look

Neighbors recently and proudly unveiled our new website. As you can see, there have been some pretty big changes in the way things are organized as well as the look. The goal of this remodel is to make the site more user friendly for you, our members. We have tried to make the information as easy to find as possible while still providing you with all the details you need to help make sound financial decisions.

Along with the new site we have also added more mobile availability with our smartphone app. Now available for both the iPhone and Android, Neighbors Mobile Banking will give you all the functionality of Online Banking in the palm of your hand. Along with the addition of YOUR PORTFOLIO, our online personal financial management tool, Neighbors is striving to make your financial life as connected as you like to be.

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How meal planning can save you hundreds

Meal planning is a simple and effective way to save a lot of money each month, not to mention cut down on pricey (and unhealthy) dining out. Serving home-cooked meals to your family not only reduces your grocery budget, it’s a healthy alternative to fast food. Here are a few tips and ideas to get you started:

1. Decide how you want to do your meal planning. Some people like to do bi-weekly, some weekly and a few will plan out monthly meal schedules. If you’re just starting out with this concept, start with weekly planning until you get the hang of it.

2. Make a list of your family’s regular and favorite meals, including side dishes to go along with entrees; for example, spaghetti and meatballs with salad and garlic bread, or tacos and beans.

3. Print out (or buy) a calendar. Sit down with it and the list of meals that you made. Start by designating each day a specific meal (Monday-meatless, Tuesday-casserole, etc.), to make it easier to plan your meals around certain days. But don’t be too set on the plan; make sure you can switch around dinners if schedules change and unexpected meetings come up.

4. Create your grocery list around your set meal plan. Check your pantry and freezer to make sure you don’t place duplicate items on your list if you already have them on hand. Scour your grocery store ads for sales on the items you need.

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Who gets what? Where your money goes when you die

In a perfect world, everything you own would go to your desired beneficiaries – exactly as you intended, according to your will.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. If you died unexpectedly, your assets may well not go to where you want them – unless you make arrangements in advance.

Probate

The first concept to understand is probate. This is a formal legal process in which the courts give everyone you ever owed money to a chance to file a claim against your estate. This process can take months or years, and is very expensive. But some assets skip probate and go directly to family.

Intestate Laws

Once your assets clear probate, then no problem – the courts will distribute everything that’s left according to your will. Absent a will, your state intestate laws take over. Each state has different intestate laws, and they may not reflect your wishes. Plan in advance.

Your Home

Your home usually won’t bypass probate. If your spouse lives with you, and owns the property with you, it will probably go to your spouse. However, if you are unmarried, live with a partner, and don’t leave a will, your house may go to your children. That may not be what you want.

Tip: Look to see how your home is titled. Does your spouse or partner own it as tenants in common, or tenants in the entirety? The answer can have huge ramifications. Consult an attorney to learn what that means in your state.

Bank Accounts, Stocks, Bonds and CDs

These go through probate, although most states provide some provision for widows to access at least some of the cash to meet living expenses, pending the completion of probate. Consider putting your heirs’ names on the account.

Life Insurance

Life insurance bypasses probate. Death benefits are ordinarily tax free, and usually go to your beneficiary in a matter of days.

Retirement Accounts

Retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s also bypass probate – if you name a beneficiary. Otherwise, these accounts become part of your estate – and subject to probate and the claims of creditors.

Annuities

Generally, annuity balances or death benefits go to the family and bypass probate, so long as there is a named beneficiary. If there is no named beneficiary, your family will have to wait on probate.

Stepchildren

Generally, intestate laws only recognize formal family relationships. Without careful planning, you may accidentally disinherit a stepchild or life partner.

The Bottom Line

The most important things to remember: Work with an experienced attorney licensed in your state, update your will, and update your beneficiaries on retirement accounts, life insurance policies and annuities.

Visit Neighbors Financial Investments and Insurance for help with your retirement and insurance planning.

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Credit Repair: The good, the bad and the truth

If there’s something on your credit report that you’d like to delete with the Mr. Clean magic eraser, the ads that you see and hear from those "credit repair” companies sound pretty good. They promise to legally change your credit report, bring up your score, and give you a fresh start. Can it be true?

The bad news is that most credit repair firms are nothing more than thinly veiled scams. If you see any of these red flags, walk away:

1. The company asks for money before doing anything for you.

2. They advise you not to contact the three major credit reporting companies, Transunion, Equifax, and Experian.

3. They promise they are able to change anything on your credit report, even delinquencies that are recent and accurate.

4. They advise you to create a brand new credit history by applying for an EIN to use in place of your social security number.

5. They advise you to dispute information on your credit report, even if that information is accurate and current.

The obvious problem here is that money is wasted on a scam with nothing to show for it. But an even larger issue lies in the fact that misrepresenting your social security number, getting an EIN under false pretenses, and including inaccurate information on a loan or credit application are all federal crimes. Doing any of these things, even if a legitimate-sounding organization advises you to do them, could lead to being charged and prosecuted for these serious crimes.

The good news is that any credit repair you’d like to do can be handled by you – and legally. An excellent article from the FTC shows how to dispute information that’s inaccurate or old, and even includes a sample letter you can use. You’ll find the article at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre13.shtm

[If you're concerned about a credit repair company you're working with or are considering, come in to the credit union and we'll help you figure it out.]

Want more information on repairing your credit? Register for one of our free financial literacy seminars.

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President's message

Here at Neighbors we are always looking for what is best for you, the member, and in this day and age that has come to mean technology. In the past year we have dedicated ourselves to improving the technology that we can offer to provide you with more convenience and better financial tools.

You've probably already noticed the new look of our web site but this makeover doesn't just end with a pretty exterior. With this remodel, we have streamlined our site to make it more user friendly and easier to navigate. You will find all the information you need to help you with your financial choices. If you don't see something you need on the site just use our Ask Neighbors function and a customer service representative will email you the information that you're looking for.

In addition to our new site we have also recently released our new smartphone app. This app, available on both itunes and the Google Play marketplace, is designed so that you can have the convenience of online banking right in the palm of your hand. We know you're not always with in reach of a computer but you're probably never more than an arms reach away from your phone. Because of this we have created an app that puts your credit union right in your pocket or purse. We've even made it easy to download. Just click here and have your smartphone ready to scan the QR code. That's it, you're ready to go.

With these advances plus YOUR PORTFOLIO, our online personal financial management tool, you can rest assured that Neighbors is striving to deliver the best services along with the best in financial products. We look forward to making even more improvements that will make your financial life a little easier.

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Safe Money - Identity theft and technology, including social media

A recent study put together by The Javelin Group has some disturbing findings: The incidence of identity theft was up 13 percent, compared to the previous year. The total amount stolen was about the same, but the thieves successfully scammed more people.

Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn users take heed: The study found that there were specific factors that put social media users at elevated risk of getting scammed:

  • 68 percent of social media users publicly shared their birthday.
  • 63 percent shared the name of their high school.
  • 18 percent shared their phone number.
  • 12 percent shared their pet’s name.

All of the above information represents the kinds of things a company would use to verify your identity, according to the study’s authors. In some cases, scammers have been known to bluff their way through customer service representatives to get access to other important information – and even wipe out entire accounts. When young or vulnerable people share this information, it could make them more susceptible to stalkers or sexual predators.

The Smartphone Factor

The study also found that smartphone users were a third more likely to be victims of identity theft than non-smartphone users. This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that smartphones are to blame. But it does seem to indicate that the people who use smartphones are doing something to make them more vulnerable or attractive to scammers.

What can you do to avoid being a victim?

  • Password protect your phone.
  • Don’t use credit cards for Internet transactions over public networks. Thieves have "sniffers” that can extract that data.
  • Don’t store credit card numbers or bank account information on your laptop.
  • Use different passwords for mobile banking apps on your phone than passwords you do for your phone and email.
  • Promptly report any suspicion that your sensitive personal information has been compromised.
  • Keep documents that list Social Security numbers off of your laptop, or encrypt that data if you do store there.
  • Keep private information private. If any company uses specific information about you to verify your identity – your mothers’ maiden name, pet names, birthdays, etc., keep it off Facebook and any other social media site.

Tip: Is your mother on your Facebook page? Does she use her maiden name? You are vulnerable.

Pro tip: If your mother is on your Facebook page, and you share your date of birth, you are a prime candidate for ID theft.

Visit our Fraud Protection Center for more information on how to protect your money.

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Schedule of Free Financial Literacy Seminars
To register, click the date of the seminar you would like to attend. All of our financial literacy seminars are free and open to the community.

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Money, Budgets, Accounts, Credit and Credit Scores
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Money, Budgets, Accounts, Credit and Credit Scores
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Money, Budgets, Accounts, Credit and Credit Scores

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Holiday Hours

Labor Day
Monday, September 3rd
Neighbors will be closed
Columbus Day
Monday, October 8th
Neighbors will be closed

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Neighbors Financial

The cut was good.
The advice wasn't.


For financial advise you can
trust, talk to the experienced
professionals located at
your credit union. You'll
receive personal, objective
advise based on a long-term
commitment to you.

Call Today

Neighbors Financial
Investments and Insurance
located at:
Neighbors Federal Credit Union

Jason Knapps
Financial Services Representative
Office: 225.819.5790
Fax: 225.819.8923
Toll Free:
866.819.2178 ext 5790


Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free (866) 512-6109. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members.
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© CUNA Mutual Group


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