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 annualcreditreport.com 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 ihmvcu.org/starthere. We’ll help you find a mortgage that gets you moving.

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Spring break staycation ideas for the whole family

While it might be nice to escape the cold and snow this month with a spring break getaway, the cost of hotel rooms and plane tickets for the whole family can quickly eat away at your budget.

If staying home is a more realistic option for you and your family, check out these tips for a fun spring break “staycation.” You’ll have so much fun you won’t even notice the cold.

…Okay maybe that’s a stretch, but it might take your mind off it for a while!

Be a tourist in your home town
Whether you’ve lived in your hometown your whole life or just moved in, you probably haven’t experienced all there is to do. Check out a new exhibit at a local museum, catch a local artist performing at your favorite coffee shop, or visit that new restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. Plan it the same way you would if you were out of town—learn as much as you can about what your city has to offer and have your family help plan the day. If your town doesn’t have much in the way of adventure, plan a day trip and discover a fun new place nearby.

Movie marathon
When’s the last time you watched the entire Star Wars saga? A movie marathon is the perfect staycation activity when it’s too cold outside. Spend the whole day (or evening) in your pajamas or comfy clothes, and relax at home. It’s a great way to share your favorite movies with your kids, or check out new releases. If your family is older, consider seeing all those Oscar movies you missed. Order pizza, pop some popcorn, and snuggle up.

Organize a scavenger hunt
Depending on how old your kids are and how many adult chaperones you have, a scavenger hunt can be as small as your own backyard, or as big as your entire town. Hide goodies for your family to find, then hand out clues and maps. Make the clues as hard or as easy as you want. You can even write them as poems or puzzles and make it a learning activity by including historical fiction and easy math problems.

Go geocaching
The official geocaching website describes this free activity as “a real-life treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.” Use a specific set of GPS coordinates to find hidden objects in your area, and maybe see some cool new sights along the way. Geocaches are hidden world-wide, so there’s bound to be something for you and your family to find. Visit geocaching.com to learn more.

Have an outdoor adventure
If it’s not too cold, go hiking or exploring at a state park or forest preserve near you. Pack a lunch, bring the camera, and make a day of it. If there’s snow on the ground, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing. If you don’t own equipment, parks or local businesses may have equipment available for rent.

Take advantage of member discounts
IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union members get exclusive discounts to local events and attractions for the whole family. Use your staycation to take advantage of buy-one-get-one free admission to QC Mallards home games and the Putnam Museum and Science Center. Starting in April, your membership gets you buy-one-get-one free admission to the Family Museum, too. Visit ihmvcu.org/memberdiscounts to find out more.

No matter what you end up doing with your time, it will feel more like a vacation if you treat it like one. Block off your calendar like you would if you were going on a real vacation, avoid the urge to do housework, and enjoy time with your family.

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Know the difference between good and bad debt

Most of us can’t afford to live entirely debt free, but not all debt is the same. While some types of debt can actually be beneficial, others can be dangerous. Before you borrow money, it’s good to know the difference between “good” debt and “bad” debt. In general, “good” debt will create value over time. “Good” debt is often tax deductible, and your purchase should appreciate, or produce more wealth. Any debt that you accrue for things that have no potential to increase in value is “bad” debt.

It’s not likely that you can afford to purchase a home in cash, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own a home. If you plan carefully and only borrow what you can afford to pay back, a home can be an excellent example of “good” debt. Your purchase will likely appreciate, especially if you make any renovations or improvements to the property. Plus, any interest paid may be tax deductible, talk to your tax advisor for details.

Student Loans
People with college degrees or education in a skilled trade tend to make more money in a lifetime than those who stop at high school. An investment in a college degree or skilled-trade school is likely to pay for itself within the first few years after a student enters the work force. As with all debt, it’s important that you don’t borrow more than you really need or student loans can quickly become “bad” debt. Experts recommend borrowing no more than what you expect to make in the first year of employment after graduation.

Business Loans
In this case the saying “it takes money to make money” is certainly true. You need a little capital to begin a new business or expand an already successful one. However, business loans are only “good” debt if you borrow reasonably and have a clear plan to generate more business or income.

Credit Cards
Credit cards are often used to purchase wants rather than needs, and the ease of use can have debt piling up faster than we realize. If you’re purchasing things like clothing, food or vacations with a credit card and not paying off the balance in full each month, you’re looking at “bad” debt. You’re charged interest every time you make a partial payment. The items you purchased are likely continuing to lose value, but the price you paid for them keeps increasing. Beware of credit card gimmicks that lure you in with introductory rates that will likely skyrocket later.

Car loans
While you probably need a car to get to work and run all of life’s other errands, you don’t have to go broke to get one. Most new cars depreciate quickly, sometimes as much as 20% in the first year. If you buy more car than you can afford, you may end up with a loan balance higher than what your car is actually worth. If you take out a loan, think about purchasing a pre-owned car. Look for a loan with a competitive interest rate and consider paying an extra $25-50 per month so you can pay it off more quickly.

Are you struggling with some bad debt? IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union offers smart student loans, competitive auto and mortgage rates, and gimmick-free credit cards to help keep you on the right track. Visit us at any branch today! We’re here to help.

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Supercharge Your Retirement: Fees and Rollovers


If you’re nearing retirement or switching jobs, you may be faced with the decision to leave your nest egg in your employer provided retirement plan, take a distribution, or roll it over to an IRA.

If you plan to leave your money in your employer plan, it might cost you. Fees for record keeping and plan management are often subtracted before your annual return is calculated, or even not explicitly listed. Experts say about 1% is reasonable, so check with your plan administrator to find out exactly how much you’re paying.

Rolling over to an IRA certificate is a great way to keep your tax benefits intact without the added fees associated with some plans. Whether you choose the upfront tax advantages of a traditional IRA or the tax-free growth of a Roth IRA, you’ll be keeping more of your money.

IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union wants to help supercharge your retirement with special rates on IRA certificates. For a limited time, you can earn 0.90% APY on a nine-month IRA certificate, or 1.46% APY on a 26 month IRA certificate*.

If you’re ready to roll your accounts over or need more information, visit us at any branch. We’ll help you get the most out of your retirement, because You’re Worth More at IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union.

*APY = Annual Percentage Yield. Rates accurate as of 01/21/15. $500 min. balance. Early withdrawal penalties apply. Rate does not apply to existing IHMVCU certificates or IRA certificates. Other rates and terms available. Federally Insured by NCUA.

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Host a winning Super Bowl party without losing your budget

Football Fans - Touch Down

If you’re anything like us, you probably aren’t traveling to Phoenix for the big game this Sunday. Though watching the game from home is cheaper than being in the stands, hosting a party can still be pretty pricey—it’s estimated that Americans spend around $11 billion dollars on Super Bowl Sunday. IHMVCU wants to help keep your party from breaking the bank. Here are some tips to throw a party that’s fun for your friends and friendly for your wallet!

Super Bowl parties are casual by nature, so it’s okay to ask guests to contribute to the spread. If you’re tired of the usual potluck, consider a baked potato bar. A big bag of potatoes costs around $4 and you can easily prepare enough for a crowd in the slow cooker. Just wrap the potatoes in foil and cook on low for 8 – 10 hours. Have guests bring their favorite potato toppings, like cheese, broccoli, and crumbled bacon. Spice it up by making a large batch of chili for around $1 per serving.

Save even more by using any leftovers in your menu for the next week. Strip the meat from chicken wings to make tacos or enchiladas. You can even crush leftover potato chips to make a crunchy coating for fried chicken. If your guests left a few unopened beers lying around, try using it to braise a roast. Craft beers especially have enough flavor to liven up even the cheapest cuts of meat.

If you’re asking your guests to bring food, you may want to provide some of the drinks. Use coupons to buy two-liter bottles of soda and mixers if your guests might need them. Instead of shelling out cash on bottled waters, make your own flavored waters. Try adding sliced cucumber, lime, and mint leaves to a large pitcher of water. It’s easy and refreshing.

Alcohol is arguably the most expensive part of any party. Since people’s tastes and drinking habits vary, have guests bring their own alcohol. Have some fun by asking beer drinkers to bring enough of their favorite brew to share and do a swap.

Your guests are probably more concerned with the score than your décor, so don’t go all out. Instead of decking out the living room, try decking out your friends. Ask guests wear their team’s colors and make face paint with stuff from your pantry. All you need is cold cream, corn starch, and food coloring. Easy directions here.

What are some of your favorite money-saving party tips?

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Supercharge Your Retirement

IRA_headerWhether you plan to work for three more years or 30, it’s important to have a plan for your future. Even if you have a 401(k) or another tax-advantaged savings plan through work, IRA certificates can benefit your retirement portfolio. They combine the fixed-rate of traditional certificates with the tax benefits of an IRA. Whether you go with a Roth IRA that provides tax-free growth or the upfront advantages of a traditional IRA, you keep more of your retirement money and put less into Uncle Sam’s pocket.

IRA certificates are low risk when compared to other retirement investments. Unlike stocks and bonds, your deposit is federally insured so it grows safely no matter what happens in the market. Plus, your rate of return is guaranteed over the term of your deposit, making it easy to plan around your income.

You work hard for your money, and you deserve to enjoy it. IHMVCU wants to supercharge your retirement by offering special rates on IRA certificates. For a limited time, you can earn 0.90% APY on a nine month IRA certificate, or 1.46% APY on a 26 month IRA certificate*.

If you’re ready to open an IRA or need more information, come visit us at any branch. No matter where you are on your financial journey – You’re Worth More at IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union.

*APY = Annual Percentage Yield. Rates accurate as of 01/21/15. $500 min. balance. Early withdrawal penalties apply. Rate does not apply to existing IHMVCU certificates or IRA certificates. Other rates and terms available. Federally Insured by NCUA.
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IHMVCU Newsletter – Winter 2015

Your copy of the Winter Newsletter will be arriving in your mailbox this week!

Featured Articles:cover
Estate Planning Seminar
Tax Tips
Cash for Class Scholarship
Supercharge your Retirement

Click here to read the entire newsletter early.




FCT_seminar  tax_tips scholarship  IRA

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