Tag Archives: Finances

Financial Side of College Graduation

In November, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority presented a program on how to pay for college.  As graduation dates creep ever closer, HESAA is back to talk about what to expect financially after graduation.  The feelings of joy and accomplishment after graduation can quickly fade as the real world of financial obligations start to set in.  Samantha Benson, Training Administrator for HESAA, will cover topics such as credit scores, student loan repayment programs, aggregate loan limits, and the cost of law and medical school.  Please join us for this critical informational session to help ensure that your children are set up for success after college.


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Small Business Administration Resources and Services

Starting and maintaining a small business can be difficult without the right funding and help.  The Small Business Administration can provide small business owners with the tools and resources to help start and grow your business.  Please join us as Erika Pearson from the SBA will present resources and services the SBA has to offer new and existing entrepreneurs and small businesses. There are local resources available, for little or no charge, that offer training and counseling services developed to assist new and established business owners.  She will answer what SBA programs and loans are available as funding outlets that you may not have considered and can be used to start or expand a business.

Erika came to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) with 30 years of lending background and a wealth of financial customer service experience.  She worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a Taxpayer Advocate assisting taxpayers with resolving their IRS problems that they could not resolve on their own. Prior to the IRS, Erika worked in the private sector as a Wholesale Mortgage Account Executive for Chase Manhattan Bank, Santander Bankcorp, AIG, and PHH/Cendant Mortgage.  She assisted Bankers and Brokers with preparing and underwriting their residential mortgages for sale in the secondary market.


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Understanding Social Security

As people prepare for retirement, one of the biggest factors revolves around Social Security.  Popular questions include “How much will I get?”, “Will it be enough?”, and “Can I still work?”.  Please join us as the Credit Union of New Jersey and Member Wealth Management unravel the intricacies of Social Security, including:

  • Social Security Eligibility
  • Filing for Benefits
  • Benefits for Spouses
  • Working after you begin collecting

Securities, Investment Advisory and Financial Planning services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC, Member SIPC: 222 Central Park Ave Suite 1100 Virginia Beach VA 23462 (757) 490-9041. Member Wealth Management and Credit Union of NJ are not subsidiaries or affiliates of MML Investors Services, LLC.  CRN202103-244844


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Money Matters

Money plays a critical role in our lives, from how we operate day-to-day to our long term financial goals, such as retirement, purchasing a car, or buying a house.  Educating ourselves on our money, especially spending and saving, are important for ensuring financial stability and becoming financially literate.  As such, the NJ State Library is proud to kick of this year’s Money Smart Week with Money Matters from the FDIC.  The Money Matters module will show participants how to manage their money by preparing a personal spending plan and identify ways to decrease spending and increase income.  The module will specifically cover:

  • List the steps for setting financial goals
  • Track daily spending habits
  • Prepare a spending plan to estimate monthly income and expenses
  • Identify ways to decrease spending
  • Identify ways to increase income
  • Identify spending plan tools to manage bills

Money Smart Week is a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances. This is achieved through the collaboration and coordinated effort of hundreds of organizations across the country including businesses, financial institutions, schools, libraries, not-for-profits, government agencies and the media.  For more information, please visit http://www.ala.org/aboutala/offices/money-smart-week.


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WEBINAR – Fighting Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft in New Jersey

Join the Federal Trade Commission on January 14 at 1:00 PM for “Fighting Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft in New Jersey,” a free, one-hour webinar.

You’ll learn about:

  • The top scams reported in New Jersey
  • Tips to help people recognize and avoid scams
  • Free resources you can use to help people in your communities protect their identity and report identity theft

Speakers will include staff from the:

  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Office of the New Jersey Attorney General
  • Better Business Bureau Serving New Jersey
  • Legal Services of New Jersey
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

If you would like to attend this webinar in person at the State Library, please register below.  If you would like to attend this webinar remotely, please visit https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/webinar-fighting-consumer-fraud-identity-theft-new-jersey.


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Managing Your Credit and Credit Reporting Program Recap

Thank you to the Credit Union of New Jersey and Pete Manferdo from Experian for presenting Managing Your Credit and Credit Reporting.  Credit plays an important role in our finances, from car loans, to mortgages, to credit cards.  As such, it is important to understand exactly how credit and credit reporting works and what you can do keep on top of your credit.  The following topics were covered:

Credit Report

  • What is on a report?
    • Identifying information such as name, address, and social security number
    • Account information, such as credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc.
    • Bankruptcy Public Records
    • Credit Inquiries
    • Dispute instructions
      • You can dispute anything on your credit report
      • usually takes 30-45 to process the dispute, including investigation
  • Used by lenders to gauge the likelihood of paying back a loan
  • FICO score is used by lenders to predict your risk of defaulting on loan within 24 months (higher the score, the less risk there is)
  • Credit Reports do not include your Credit Score

Credit Report Retention

  • How long information stays on your Credit Report
    • Accounts open that are in good standing – indefinitely
    • Accounts closed that are in good standing – 10 years
    • Late or missed payments – 7 years
    • Collection accounts – 7 years
    • Chapter 7 bankruptcy – 10 years
    • Chapter 13 bankruptcy – 7 years
    • Credit inquiries (hard hits) – 2 years

Common Myths about Credit

  • Once bad debt is paid off, it goes away – all debt will remain on your credit report according the to the retention information above
  • The credit reporting company denied me credit – the reporting company only houses your information; the lending company makes the decision on the loan
  • I am not responsible for charges on my account – if someone else is linked to your account or you have a joint account, you are responsible for all debt associated with your accounts
  • Divorce decree separates joint accounts – marital debt is considered joint debt even after a divorce decree
  • I must give permission for a report to be issued – Lenders can request information on your credit history (soft inquiries) for purposes such as pre-qualified offers for credit cards or loans.
  • Requesting your own credit report and pre-approval offers harm history – You can obtain your own credit report once a year for free without any impact on your credit score
  • There is one score based on your report – different companies have different calculations for evaluating your credit so scores will be different based on different criteria

Breakdown of the Vantage Score (Similar to FICO Score)

  • Payment History – 40%
  • Depth of Credit – 21% (how long you have had credit)
  • Utilization – 20% (how much you owe vs. your available credit limit)
  • Account Balances – 11%
  • Recent Credit – 5%
  • Available Credit – 3%

For more information on credit reports and credit scores, contact your financial institution or visit the Federal Government’s Credit Reports and Scores page at https://www.usa.gov/credit-reports.

Managing Your Credit and Credit Reporting

Creating and maintaining a healthy credit history can be difficult, but is necessary for many things in our lives, from getting personal loans, mortgages, car loans, or obtaining a credit card.  Please join us as the CUNJ and Experian will present on how to better understand credit reporting and provide general information about how you can manage your credit reports so that you can get the credit you need and want.  Specifically, it will touch on:

  • How your data is obtained
  • What are credit reports and credit scores
  • What is and is not in a credit report
  • Disputing items on your credit report
  • Managing your credit and improving scores
  • Free resources available to help improve your financial fitness


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Take the Wheel Program Recap

Thank you to the Credit Union of New Jersey for their presentation on car buying.  Purchasing a new or used car can be a hassle, but you can help relieve the stress and secure the best deal by doing some research and willing to negotiate.  Follow these tips:

  1. The most important part of buying/leasing a car is determining how much you can afford.   Make sure to create a budget to determine the limit to what you can spend.  Secure a pre-approval from your bank or credit union to have an accurate number for what your spending range should be.
  2. Shop around, either at dealerships or online.  By researching the car you wanted, you can pick the features you want, check to see what others in your area have paid for the car, and see what discounts or offers certain dealerships may be giving to help lower the cost of the car, as well as your payments.
  3. Determining the actual price of the car can be difficult.  The MSRP does not include optional equipment, dealer fees such as destination charges, or market adjustments.  The total price of the car is the “sticker price” which is usually at the bottom of the window sticker.  Additionally, there may be rebates, offers, and dealer incentives that can decrease the cost of the sticker price so make sure to ask about them.  Ideally, you want to negotiate to about 2% over the dealer invoice price.
  4. Negotiation is an art and car salespeople do this many times a week.  Be sure to talk about the invoice price rather than the sticker or MSRP.  Negotiate the price first before discussing any payments or trade-in values.  The salesperson knows what the lowest price is so do not wait around for a manager’s approval; this is a stall tactic to make you think about buying impulsively.  As always, shop around to get the best deal because each individual dealership controls the final price of the car, not the manufacturer.
  5. One way dealerships try to sell you a car is by offering discounts on financing, such as 0%.  However, if you take the financing option through the dealership, you usually loose out on other rebates, such as cash back.  Financing through your bank or credit union, while it won’t give you 0%, you will still be qualified for the other rebates, which may be greater than the interest you will pay on the loan.  Additionally, the dealership may make several hard inquiries on your credit while checking several lenders they work with while your bank or credit union will only make one.

There are many resources out there to help you when buying a car.  Consumer Reports has reviews as well as a booklet to purchase that lists the dealer invoice prices for a given year.  Cars.com is a great way to shop around for the features you want and see what others have paid in your area.  Kelly Blue Book is the gold standard for determine the value of your used car, but they will also provide information on new cars.  The Federal Trade Commission has good information on all aspects of the car buying process, especially in terms of leasing a vehicle.

Copy of the Take the Wheel Presentation

Copy of the Take the Wheel Handout

Take the Wheel – Tips for Buying a Car

The car-buying experience can be very stressful, especially as salespeople try to pressure you into buying a car immediately or perhaps a car that you do not like.  Learning the in-and-outs of negotiating and buying a car takes time and practice, time that many of us don’t have to spend.  It can also be difficult determining how a person can afford when considering whether buying a new or used car or perhaps leasing a car.  Fear not, as the Credit Union of New Jersey will help educate you and guide you in purchasing the right car for you.  They will cover the following topics:

  • Determining how much you can afford
  • How to deal with car dealers
  • How to negotiate prices
  • New vs. used


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Retirement Planning Program Recap

Thank you to Arlene Ferris-Waks from the Bureau of Securities for presenting on how to start preparing for retirement.  Retirement is a critical milestone that can severely affect the quality of one’s life as they age.  When considering your retirement, there are 5 steps you should go through to prepare yourself:

  1. Coordinate with your partner/spouse
  2. Determine where your money will come from after retirement (pensions, Social Security, annuities, etc.)
  3. Set a monthly budget to ensure you have enough income
  4. Determine how you will spend your time, including part-time jobs
  5. Plan for your healthcare

Planning for your retirement is a long process, so within 5 years of your retirement, you should:

  1. Review your pensions, estimated Social Security income, and other investments to make sure you are able to sustain your expenses
  2. Evaluate your taxes to ensure you can adequately afford to stay in your home or pay the income taxes from your investments
  3. Diversify your investments to ensure you have a stable and reliable income
  4. Educate yourself about the different types of investments, financial professionals, and government benefits

It is important to make sure you are secure in your financial future so consulting with a financial professional is important.  There are different types of financial professionals that may or may not fit your financial goals.  Registered Representatives generally charge a commission per transaction and do not have a fiduciary responsibility to manage your investments, which means they can pick more costly securities to ensure their commissions are higher.  Investment Adviser Representatives tend to charge a quarterly or yearly fee for managing your investment portfolio which can cost more money than the commission a Registered Representative would make if you have few transactions in a year.  However, an IAR does have a fiduciary responsibility to manage your money in your best interest and in good faith, which also means that you can take them to court.  You can always check the status and background of your investment professional through the NJ Bureau of Securities, either online or by phone at 973-504-3600.

As always, there are many investment scams to watch out for, from Ponzi schemes, to Bait and Switch, to guaranteed returns.  There is no such thing as a guaranteed return as all investing and securities come with some level of risk.  So, before you invest, seek the assistance of an attorney or CPA, consider estate planning and especially trusts if you want to pass your money on after your death, and always consider the tax implications of your investment choices.

For more information on retirement and resources to help you, you can reach out to the Social Security AdministrationAARP, FINRA, or the Employee Benefit Research Institute.  You can also contact Arlene at arlene.ferris-waks@lps.state.nj.us or 973-504-3627 regarding anything from her presentation or how the Bureau of Securities can help you on your road to retirement.

Retirement Planning

The notion of retirement often conjures images of relaxation, joyfulness, and engaging in activities we love, but quite the opposite can occur while trying to figure out how to plan for retirement.  Ensuring that we have enough tucked away to financially support us after we retirement can be daunting and a major source of stress and anxiety.  To help us ease through this transition and plan for a financially stable future, Arlene Ferris-Waks,  Director of Complaints and Investor Outreach for the New Jersey Bureau of Securities will present on retirement planning.  She will cover how to prevent becoming a victim of fraud and scammers, social security, estate planning, downsizing for retirement, and some methods that people might be able to play catch-up for saving for retirement, among other things.


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Financial Aid Information Session Program Recap

Thank you to Sharon Austin from the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority for an extremely informative presentation on preparing for the financial aspects of higher education.   Paying for college can be overwhelming, especially for parents who are unfamiliar with the process.  Being organized and proactive are keys to ensuring that you do not miss any available financial assistance available.  Completing the CSS Profile and FASFA early and accurately can dramatically alter the cost to you and your child, ensuring you get the maximum need-based aid available.  Sharon also covered the details of subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans, different federal and NJ State grants, and a variety of loans specifically for parents.

Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) – www.hesaa.org

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – https://fafsa.ed.gov/

College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile – https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/

New Jersey Grants and Scholarships – www.njgrants.org

UNIGO Scholarship Search – https://www.unigo.com/scholarships