Last minute tips for a frugal Fourth

Throwing a party for the Fourth is a great way to get friends and family together, but if you’re not careful those party costs can stack up quickly. If you’re looking to have a festive bash without bashing your budget, we’re here to help. Check out our suggestions for frugal festivities, and share yours in the comments!

Skip expensive decorations
Fourth of July is all about outdoor fun, and usually the great outdoors is decoration enough. Instead of splurging on expensive décor that you’ll just throw away or forget about next year, get creative. Try hollowing out bell peppers as a colorful way to serve condiments, or arrange a tray of pineapple, watermelon cubes and blueberries in the shape of a flag. Edible décor is far more popular with hungry guests than fancy flag bunting.

If you absolutely must decorate, grab some miniature flags from the dollar store. You can get a flag for every guest and pay less than $20. If you’ve got some extra cardboard lying around, cut it into stars and cover it with aluminum foil. You can hang them around the yard or use them underneath bowls of fresh fruit for centerpieces.

Stick with solid-colors
It can be tempting to go crazy at the party store and buy all the star-spangled cups, plates and napkins. It’s also crazy expensive. Save some green and stick with solid red plastic plates and white napkins. It’s still patriotic, and any leftover plates can be used for Christmas or Valentine’s Day.

Make it a potluck
Having everybody bring a little something is the best way to cut costs. As the host, you should provide the bulk of the meal—like hotdogs and hamburgers to throw on the grill. Ask guests to bring buns, side dishes and desserts to round it out. It might feel like cheating, but chances are your guests will enjoy the opportunity to share their family’s top secret potato salad recipe.

Provide a cooler of waters or sodas, but ask guests to bring their own alcohol.

Do something different
If your friends and family usually get together for the local parade, mix it up and have everyone over for brunch afterwards. Eggs and bacon are an inexpensive way to feed a crowd. Plus, you’re free for the rest of the day.

If you usually go to a local park to watch the fireworks display, why not host a picnic? Meet there early enough to get a good spot and enjoy some snacks in the grass. Bring sandwiches or other finger foods and ask guests to bring a dish to share.

. . . but don’t make your own fireworks display
Seriously. This can’t be stressed enough. Fireworks are expensive and more importantly, dangerous. Host your bash before or after your community’s annual extravaganza, or provide sparklers and check out your crazy neighbor’s display instead. When the day is done, your wallet will thank you and you’ll still have all the limbs you started with.

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How to save for college

Experts estimate that the average college tuition cost for the 2014-2015 school year was $31,321 at private colleges, $9,139 for students attending a public college in their home state, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents at public universities. That’s a big price tag, and it’s likely to go up every year. Creating a plan to pay for college ahead of time will save you time, money and a lot of stress. Check out these tips to make the most of your savings plan.

Don’t sacrifice your retirement
If you plan on footing the bill for your child’s college education, don’t do it at the expense of your own retirement. There are more sources of college funding available for your kids than you’ll have for your nest egg.

If you start early enough, however, the tax benefits and flexibility of a Roth IRA can help you hit both goals. Your money will grow tax free, and you can avoid a penalty fee if you use the money for educational expenses. The maximum annual contribution limit is $5,500 if you’re under 55. If you and your spouse contribute the max over 18 years, you’ll have $198,000 in contributions alone. Assuming an 8% annual return, you’ll have over $400,000—enough to fund a college education and still have a plan for retirement.

Sound like the right plan for you? IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union can help! Click here to learn about the benefits of an IRA, or visit us at any branch.

Explore investment opportunities*
The cost of college tuition goes up every year. So in addition to starting to save early, it’s a good idea to look for the highest rate of return. According to CNN, an investment portfolio tilted toward stocks could be a great way to build savings long-term. You can adjust your investments and shelter your returns as your child gets closer to college age by switching more money into bonds and other low-risk investments.

If you’re not one to watch the stock markets, investing in mutual funds will put a professional in charge of your savings.

Read CNN Money’s “Best investments for college savings” to learn more about educational investments.

Want to know more about your investment options? Our financial advisors at IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union Investment Services will help guide your management decisions. For more information, visit

Start saving now
A modest savings is better than no savings at all. Putting away just $100 a month for 18 years will yield more than $20,000, and that’s without calculating the added interest. It may not seem like much, but that’s enough to pay for two years of in-state tuition.

If you want more of a return than a simple savings account can offer, education savings accounts (ESA) offer tax-free earnings. The two most popular options are the Coverdell Savings ESA and the 529 College Savings plan.

Coverdell accounts are similar to IRAs, with the exception that the funds must be used for qualifying educational expenses. The funds can be used for education at any level (elementary through college), but contributions can only be made to the account until the beneficiary turns 18. Like a Roth IRA, Coverdell accounts have income and contribution requirements.

529 College Savings Funds can be opened for anyone regardless of annual income or age, and there’s no contribution limit. The funds in a 529 can only be used for college expenses. This account functions similar to a mutual fund—contributions are invested into many companies and its gains/losses fluctuate with market conditions. 529 College Savings Funds are best when you have plenty of time to save.

Other options
If you’re unable to save the entire cost of four years of college, federal, state and private grants and loans can bridge the gap between your savings and the cost of school. We recommend using the “free” money, like scholarships and grants, and “cheap” low-to-no interest Federal Direct loans before looking for other sources.

If you still have a gap after using your savings, grants and federal loans, consider a student loan from IHMVCU. We offer smart, responsible student loans that won’t leave you in a mountain of debt. For more information, visit

Saving for college is a big deal. Though it’s best to start early, it’s certainly never too late. Visit to see how you’ll need to save to reach your goals.

Not sure what’s best for you? Visit any branch today and speak with a member of our financial services team to help you weigh your options.


*Our advisors are securities licensed in IA, IL, and WI. Securities offered through Broker Dealer Financial Services Corp., Member FINRA & SIPC. Securities are not are not federally-insured; are not obligations of the credit union; are not guaranteed by the credit union; involve investment risk, the value of the investment may fluctuate, the return on the investment is not guaranteed and loss of principal is possible; may be offered by a dual employee who may accept deposits on behalf of the credit union and may sell non-deposit investment products on behalf of a third-party securities broker-dealer.

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IHMVCU CEO Announces Retirement

Hall_Dennis_1214 croppedDennis Hall, President and CEO of IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union, announced his retirement today. Hall has been with the credit union for 28 years, serving as President for the past 18 years.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a talented group of colleagues throughout my career,” said Hall. “Together, we’ve built an institution that’s improving the financial well-being of our members and returning value to those who need it most.”

During his tenure, the credit union grew from $200 million in assets and 25,000 members to nearly $1 billion in assets, more than 110,000 members, and 17 locations. Hall was recently inducted into the CEO Hall of Fame by the Illinois Credit Union League.

Hall was also named Executive of the Year in 2005 by the CUES (Credit Union Executive Society) Illinois Council. He served as League President from 2010-2012, and has been active in legislative committees, the Illinois Quad Cities Chapter of Credit Unions, Junior Achievement and United Way. In 2013, IHMVCU and Hall were awarded the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award.

“Credit Unions were founded on the philosophy of ‘People helping People’. Throughout his career, Dennis has lived that motto. He has shared his knowledge and expertise with credit unions throughout the region, regardless of their asset size,” said Connie Adkison, President of Moline Municipal Credit Union. “It’s been my pleasure to know and work with him. I look forward to the next chapter at IHMVCU.”

Moving Forward
Laufenberg_Brian 0415IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union Board of Directors elected Brian Laufenberg as the new CEO. He will continue to serve as Executive Vice President of Support and COO in the interim.

“On behalf of the board of directors, we’d like to congratulate Dennis on his retirement and recognize his many contributions to the credit union. When we started the search for his successor, we didn’t need to go far. The board feels that Brian will continue to lead the credit union in fulfilling our mission,” said Megan Early, Chairperson of IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union.

Laufenberg has been with IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union for 10 years, and has worked in the financial industry for 32 years. He’s a Certified Credit Union Executive (CCUE) and recently completed the CUES CEO Institute. Previously he served as Vice President of Finance for Ascentra Credit Union.

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Checklist for first time home buyers

family_new_home_smallSpring is here and home buying season is in full bloom. If you’re planning to buy a new home this year, it’s important to get your finances organized and know what you can afford. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

Pay down your debt. Check your credit score and look over your credit report. You’ll have trouble getting a loan with a good interest rate if you have a bad credit score or a loan period if your debt-to-income ratio is too high. Before you do anything else, focus on paying down your credit cards and paying your bills on time.

Save a down payment. Most lenders prefer a down payment of at least 20 percent of a home’s total purchase price. While it’s possible to get a loan with a more modest down payment, anything less than 20 percent usually requires private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is usually about 1 to 2 percent of the loan value split over monthly payments. For example, on a $100,000 home, that equates to almost $1,000 a year or $83.33 a month—assuming a 1 percent PMI fee. Moreover, PMI only protects the lender if the loan goes into default and has no benefit for the borrower. So while saving 20 percent may seem cumbersome, there are plenty of reasons to avoid paying PMI if you can.

Fine-tune your budget. There are more expenses involved with homeownership than just mortgage and insurance. What about home owner’s association fees or property taxes? If you’re renting now and your new home is going to be bigger, your utility expense will likely be bigger too. Don’t forget about maintenance and upkeep! Do you own a mower and other yard equipment? What if your water heater or furnace breaks? These other expenses can add up pretty quickly.

Calculate your existing expenses, and then find an amount you’ll be comfortable paying each month that won’t put you under too much strain. If you plan on living in this house long term, it’s important to consider an amount you can afford to pay should you be unable to work for any reason in the future. Visit to see how much your monthly payment might be including expenses like taxes, HOA and more.

Gather paperwork. There’s quite a bit of paperwork your future mortgage lender may want to see once you start your funding process. Get ready by gathering together your federal income tax records, recent paycheck stubs, copies of checks for rent or utility payments, credit card and student loan information. Save yourself some time and stress by going into the process well organized and prepared.

Not sure what documents you need? Check out our Mortgage Document Checklist.

Get preapproved. Preliminary mortgage approval is an essential step in the home buying process. Real estate agents and sellers want proof that you’ll be able to secure a mortgage before you start viewing properties. As a buyer, preapproval lets you know your buying power and calculate potential costs and payments. While preapproval is a good guideline, remember that just because you’re preapproved for a large amount doesn’t mean it will fit into your budget. Use our home affordability calculator to see how much home you can afford.

Find your neighborhood. You may know the general area you want to live in, like the north side or close to the river, but it helps to really drill into a neighborhood. Home prices vary based on proximity to schools, shopping and other amenities. Make sure you’re aware how much house your money will get you in your favorite neighborhood.

Ready to get started? Visit to fill out an application, contact a mortgage loan officer, and find out why IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union is a smart choice for your mortgage loan. Start with us and we’ll be with you every step of the way, because at You’re Worth More at IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union.

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IHMVCU Newsletter – Spring 2015

Your copy of Newsletter_Coverthe Spring Newsletter will be arriving in your mailbox next week!

Featured Articles:
Now Open in Kewanee
Are Your Ducks in a Row?
Your 2015 Member Advantages

Click here to read the entire newsletter early.

Newsletter_Kewanee Newsletter_Bob Newsletter_MA

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Tax tips for the eleventh hour

Close up of tax form on desktopTaxes are due Wed., April 15. For those of you who just double checked your calendar—yes, that’s next week. If you haven’t filed your taxes, here are some last minute dos and don’ts to help you get the most out of your refund.

DO: Plan your time wisely. You only have a week left, and rushing through the process will make it easier to overlook important elements of your return. Pick a day and time to get your taxes done and stick to it. Get all your essential tax documents together, like W-2s and 1099s. Best practice is to use a copy of last year’s return to help you get your records together.

Lower your tax liability. There’s still time to reduce your tax liability for 2014, albeit not much. Making a contribution to a traditional IRA will reduce your gross income, potentially lower the amount you owe the IRS and increase your refund. Plus, you’re putting money away for retirement, and that’s never a bad thing.

Be on the lookout for life changes. Make the most of tax time by being aware of life changes that will drive new tax benefits, like marriage, divorce, adopting a child or taking care of a dependent parent. There are plenty more, too. So take some time to figure out what changes have happened in your life that may reduce your tax burden.

File electronically. E-filing is the fastest, safest and most accurate way to file your taxes. It’s free with IRS free-file system, a tax software purchase, or with most professionals.


Overlook income. Even if you didn’t get a W-2 or 1099 from an employer, you’re still required to claim that income. Last-minute filers often forget to claim some type of income, and the IRS can catch it pretty easily.

Forget to double check numbers and sign. According to the IRS, one of the most common tax mistakes is an incorrect Social Security number. Before you file, double check you haven’t transposed any numbers. Make sure you’ve entered bank account information accurately if you’re opting to receive your refund as a direct deposit.

Your return isn’t valid if it isn’t signed, so make sure you and your spouse have signed if you’re filing jointly.

Get a pre-paid debit card. If you qualify for a refund, opt for direct deposit. Pre-paid debit cards often come with a lot of unexpected fees for things like activation, transactions, and customer service. Some national tax preparation companies may offer an option to receive your refund faster with a prepaid card, but you’ll get more in the long run by waiting.

If you waited to file your taxes because you have no idea what to do, or you’re truly overwhelmed, you’ll benefit from finding a good preparer. It’s better to get help than get audited. If you’ve already filed and you’re afraid you may have missed something, many tax preparers will review your return for free.

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Give your house a spring time makeover without breaking the bank

Warmer weather is here to stay, but all that extra sunshine can draw attention to subtle flaws in your home that may have been overlooked this winter. Whether you want to make big changes or just add a little more life to your home, there’s plenty you can do without the help of a professional. If you home needs a pick-me-up, check out these DIY suggestions for sprucing up your home on a budget:

Paint Your Front Door
Paint damage often shows up in the spring, especially after winters with heavy snow and rain. If painting your house’s exterior is beyond your budget, you can still make a fun change and add to its curb appeal by changing your front door’s color.

The key is to pick a color that compliments your home’s exterior without overwhelming every passerby.

Paint Your Front Door to Boost Curb Appeal

Reseed Your Lawn
Whether you have bare spots in your lawn or you just want thicker grass, reseeding is easier and less expensive than you may think. This chore can be as big or as small as you want—churn up the whole yard and lay down a seed blanket, or just sew seeds into the bare spots. Either way, improving your lawn’s appearance is guaranteed to add to your home’s value and curb appeal. The Family Handyman: How to Reseed Your Lawn

Clean your gutters
Gutters are your house’s first defense against rain water and melted snow that might damage your foundation. Clogged or leaky gutters can cause water buildup below the roofline and could lead to a wet basement and an expensive cleanup.

Cleaning your gutters will help them last longer, saves you money, and helps your home look better from the street. At least once a year, climb a ladder and carefully remove all the leaves and debris. If this sounds like a pain, consider installing gutter guards this spring so you don’t have such a big job next year.

HGTV: How to clean and Repair Gutters

Replace or Repair Window Screens
Opening your windows on warmer spring days instead of turning on the air is a great way to save some money. If your window screens are in need of repair, fixing or replacing them will keep bugs from getting in and will instantly improve how your home looks from outside. Replacing a screen entirely is inexpensive, and repairs are easy for those screens with only minimal damage.

Martha Stewart: How to Repair Window Screens

Are you ready to tackle some larger home improvement projects? Visit us at any branch or at to learn about how a home equity loan can help you turn your house into your dream home.

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5 steps to improving damaged credit

If you’re struggling with bad credit it may seem impossible to repair it, but fear not! With time and effort even the worst credit can be restored. The key to improving your credit history is establishing good habits. Your credit history is a lot like your driving record—it takes into account years of past behavior, not just your most recent activity. While there’s no quick fix to repairing bad credit, there are some easy steps you can take to get back on the right path.

1. Check your credit report
Repairing your credit score begins with your credit report. Request a free copy of your credit report at and check it for errors. This data is used to calculate your score, and errors could be hurting you. Check to make sure there are no late payments listed incorrectly, and each account shows the correct amount owed. You can dispute any errors with the credit bureau.

2. Reduce the amount you owe
This may be easier said than done, but it’ll definitely help ease your mind about your debt. Stop using your credit cards, and use your credit report to find out exactly how much you owe on each account and what interest you’re being charged. Set up a budget to find out how much you can afford to put towards your debt each month. If creating successful budgets isn’t your strong suit, try FinanceWorks, a free budgeting tool within Online Branch. Put the majority of your payment budget towards the debt with the highest interest rate while making the minimum payment on the rest.

Try our online calculators to see how long it will take you to pay off your cards, how increasing your monthly payment will save you money, and more.

3. Pay your bills on time
Delinquent or late payments can have a major impact on your credit score. Get current on your accounts and stay current. If simply forgetting to make payments is your issue, set up a payment reminders or automatic monthly payments. Try using Bill Pay in Online Branch to schedule recurring payments.

If you’re missing payments because you can’t afford to pay, contact your creditors or a credit counselor. IHMVCU members receive free, personalized debt counseling through GreenPath, a non-profit financial management organization that has been assisting individuals for more than 50 years. Visit our website to learn more.

4. Keep balances low
High balances on revolving debt like credit cards can impact your score. Part of your credit score is your credit utilization. If your credit card has a limit of $2,000 and you have a $1,000 balance, you’re utilizing exactly 50% of your credit. You should aim to use about 20% of your credit or less. Your credit utilization is calculated across all of your revolving debts, so consolidating or moving balances between cards generally won’t help improve this ratio.

5. Apply for a pledge loan*
IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union offers pledge loans for members looking to improve their credit. Pledge loans allow members to use their own money as collateral, instead of a vehicle or house. The loan amount is limited to the amount of money deposited into a savings account or certificate of deposit, with a minimum of $500. Pledge loans from IHMVCU offer attractive interest rates, and fixed monthly payments.

If you have questions or need help rebuilding your credit, visit us at any branch to speak with a member of our financial services team.


*Subject to credit approval. Federally insured by NCUA.

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How to save for your first house

30s_couple_house_keys_smallMaking the move from renter to home owner is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. Your home will likely be the most expensive purchase you ever make, so it’s important to plan responsibly. Try using one of our financial calculators to help figure out if buying or renting is the best option for you, how much house you can afford, and estimate your monthly mortgage payment.

Experts agree that a home should cost no more than two-and-a-half times your annual income. Most lenders require a down payment equal to 20% of the home’s total purchase price, but how do you save that much? Here are some tips to make saving for your home a little easier.

Create a monthly budget
The only way to save is to spend less than you earn. Any savings goals you have will begin and end with your monthly budget. Setting unrealistic goals isn’t going to get you anywhere, so be honest and accurate about what your family earns and spends, then stick to it as much as possible.

Need some help setting goals and sticking to them? IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union offers FinanceWorks, a free budgeting tool within Online Branch. You can use it to set spending goals, track your purchases, and plan for saving. It updates in real time and will even send you text or email alerts when you reach or exceed your limits.

Reduce Spending
This may seem like an obvious move, but it’s definitely important. By reducing or even cutting spending on things like clothes, shoes, fancy coffees and cable, you might be surprised at how much you save each month. If you take the time to develop an accurate monthly budget and eliminate the some of the “wants” from your list, you’ll find it’s easier to put more money away.

Don’t overdo it, though. It’s hard to stick to your goals if you’re frustrated or unhappy every month. Trying to cut all your family’s “wants” is unrealistic. If you’re someone who enjoys dining out, try cooking a fancy meal at home once a week with premium ingredients. Are you really going to miss those specialty coffees in the morning? Try making your own flavored syrups and getting caffeinated at home for less money. If you decide to cut cable or trips to the movie theater, try signing up for an online service like Netflix or Hulu that’s often far less expensive.

Work More
While spending less may seem like a no brainer, people often don’t consider how they can bring more money in. Consider adding a part-time job doing something different from your career. If you find a part-time job that’s in line with your hobbies, it may seem less like you’re working on the weekends. Are you handy? Try the local home improvement store. Crafty? Inquire at a fabric or hobby store. If you’ve built a good budget, you don’t really “need” this money and it can easily go into your savings.

Cut back retirement savings
If you have an employer-matched 401(k), it’s a good idea to continue contributing enough to qualify for the maximum employer contribution. While you’re saving for your home, scale back to just the match amount and put any additional cash you may have been contributing towards your down payment. You’ll still be saving for your future, just in a different way.

If you qualify as a first-time home buyer, you may be able to take up to $10,000 from your IRA penalty free to help fund your home purchase. Just know that you’ll have to pay any applicable income taxes on the withdrawal amount, depending on your account.

Are you ready to buy your home? Don’t know where to start? Visit us at any branch or We’ll help you find a mortgage that gets you moving.

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