Friday, December 16, 2016

One Simple Rule to Follow with Every Paycheck—and More Tips to Help You Save

You juggle many day-to-day tasks for your family; don’t let your finances get lost in the shuffle. By thinking ahead and making time to plan and set goals, you can save for future needs and wants.
Emergency fund

Before you save for the nice-to-haves, save for the hope-you-don’t-haves by building an emergency fund—at least six month’s salary in cash for unexpected expenses like car repairs or medical bills, or to tide you over if you lose your job.

If you don’t already have an emergency fund, how can you start one? When you receive a paycheck, follow one simple rule: Pay yourself first. Put 10 to 15 percent into savings before you spend it on bills or groceries. Consider checking with your credit union to see if this amount can be automatically deducted from every paycheck.


A little saving now can pay off big-time later. Want to start a college fund for your kids? Ask your credit union about ways to save for education costs, or consider opening a 529 plan, a tax-advantaged plan designed to encourage saving for college.


If your retirement account isn’t where you’d like it to be, it’s not too late to catch up. Set up an automatic deduction with your employer for your 401(k) plan or other retirement account, or set up an automatic deduction for every paycheck. It never hurts to ask your credit union for advice on reaching your retirement goals. Learn more at Retirement Central


Don’t feel guilty about saving for this nice-to-have — studies have shown that spending money on experiences provides more happiness than spending money on things. To help you save, consider prioritizing your disposable income.

For example, when you’re tempted to buy something you don’t need, put that amount into your vacation fund. To stay motivated, keep a photo of the place you’d like to visit in an easy-to-see place, such as in your wallet. You might open a separate account just for vacation savings and contribute a fixed amount each month—it adds up! Pen Air offers a Round It program, in which your debit card transactions are rounded up to the next dollar and the extra funds are transferred nightly into a Round It Savings Account. This account is ideal for saving for something special. Saving Accounts

Remember, it’s never too late to start saving and even small contributions add up. Not sure where to start?  Your credit union can answer questions and help you plan for your financial goals.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Financial Literacy for Kids: How to Teach Them to Save, Spend Wisely, and Give

How can you make a positive impact on your kids’ future financial decisions? If your child receives an allowance or has another source of income and isn’t sure what to do with the money, help your child balance their options: spending, saving, or giving to charity.

  • ·         Saving: Putting away a certain amount of money each time your child has the means ensures that he or she can pay for something they really want. Pen Air customer Raelyn, 6, says she’s saving for a trip to Disney World. “I can put [the money] in my hedgehog [bank] or I can deposit it in my account,” she says. If your child wants to save for something special, encourage him or her to put a portion of their weekly allowance, or any money received as gifts, into a jar or piggy bank, or open a savings account together at your credit union and deposit the money there. Make it a special occasion!
  • ·         Spending: If your child decides to spend the money, let him or her decide what to spend it on — within limits, of course. Take your child to the store and look at the pros and cons of each option together. If your child wants to save for a special toy but is prone to impulse spending (who can resist the penny candy?), share your own saving techniques — such as putting a picture of the toy on the savings jar as a reminder not to spend it.
  • ·         Giving: Encourage your child to give back to the community. Help your child to find a charity that supports a cause he or she is curious about (perhaps animal welfare or hungry children). Start by learning more about the charity together -  check the organization’s website or attend a local event, and allow your child to ask questions along the way. From there you’ll be able to help them identify ways to help, either by donating their time or setting aside money to give to the cause.

Finally, remember to set an example. If you have saved up for a special purchase, tell your child about it. If you give to a charity, explain why. By helping your child to understand the impact of your decisions, you model behaviors that will inspire them to make better decisions when managing their own finances.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Surprising Considerations When Buying a House

Buying a house — or just thinking about it? Before you fall in love with a large bay window or stainless-steel appliances, consider these five important questions.

Budget: Have you considered all costs?

Before you start shopping, have a clear idea of what you can spend. Check with your credit union, which can give you financial advice and pre-approve you for a loan. Consider costs beyond financing and closing—for example, the appraisal, inspection, landscaping, flood insurance, and yearly insurance. Think about expensive repairs or maintenance you might need 5, 10, or 15 years down the line. Finally, ask your Realtor to double-check the information on the property’s listing sheet to ensure you’re not surprised when tax time rolls around. The more prepared you are, the better off you’ll be.

History: Does your house have a secret?

Ask your Realtor to research all disclosures on your house before you buy. He or she can tell you about any potentially unpleasant surprises. For example: Has the property ever had a title transfer issue? Will the property require flood insurance? If the house has a noted addition, were the appropriate permits pulled? Have there been any complaints against the house’s builder?

In addition, you might ask: Does the house have (or has it ever had) termite damage, water damage, or mold? Does the electrical outlet have room for expansion? Are the walls sheet rock or plaster? How old are the appliances, and are they still under warranty? How old are the windows? Does the house have a septic or sewage system? Is the foundation porous? You might ask him or her to point out any other potential issues before you even have a home inspection.

Investment: Are you thinking long-term?

When you tour a house, look beyond the details — wallpaper, cabinet colors, the way the house has been staged — all of which can be easily changed after you purchase the home. Instead, consider longer-term factors, including the home’s location and surroundings — whether your new neighborhood and its hotels, restaurants, fitness centers and other amenities will be a good long-term investment for you and your family. If you have young children, you may want to look into the local schools, too—not just elementary, but junior and high schools as well.

Communication: How are you working with your team?

Buying a home is a major life-changing investment, and open communication with your Realtor, lawyer, loan officer, home inspector, and other professionals is a must. For example: Ask your Realtor if he or she has any creative strategies for the offer—for example, incorporating an escalator clause (i.e. one that guarantees a change in the agreement price if a certain variable is met) into the contract. Consider asking your loan officer whether you should buy points upfront to bring down the interest rate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Paperwork: Do you know what you’re signing?

Carefully read through your contract and all related paperwork. Many people choose to hire a lawyer to review the documents and ensure their interests are being represented. Don’t let anyone rush you: If you have questions, see something you’re not comfortable with, or want to negotiate something, feel free to ask. Your credit union can help, too. Broker Linda Goneke
says, “Pen Air is always competent in financing and mortgaging properties, of course buyers have always had great experiences working with PenAir.” 

Take the time to think things through, and you’ll find a house that’s good for you and your finances.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

How to Negotiate with Confidence When Buying a Car

If you’re buying a car, don’t be intimidated by the thought of price negotiations. With a few tips, you can find the right car for your budget.

Get started

First, nail down how much you can afford to spend — Pen Air’s car loan calculator can help — and make sure you have hard numbers in mind before you shop. You should also ask your credit union about getting pre-approved for a car loan. At Pen Air, you can apply for an auto loan online anytime, over the phone, or at your nearest branch.

Do your research

Before you ever talk to a dealer, consider your priorities for a new or used vehicle: number of passengers and amount of cargo space, desired features, gas mileage, and other considerations. (Finding the Right Car for Your Family and Budget ) You may also want to research prices: Pen Air’s Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar, can help you find a new or used car, look up what others have paid for a particular vehicle, or check used car prices.

Negotiating tips  

Before you look at a car, prepare yourself for the trip to the dealership. Arrange your own financing, and have the information in hand when you go. If the dealer asks if you need financing, tell him or her no, because you’ve already set it up with your credit union.  Also, be aware that you’ll generally get a better deal by going direct than you will through a car dealership.

Pen Air member Mike C. says,  “Having a Pen Air auto loan pre-approved before I went car shopping really changed my car shopping experience. I was able to go on the lot without hassle and pressure from the finance department and the sales guys. As soon as I found the car I wanted, I was able to negotiate the deal and sign off because I already had my paperwork ready to go.”

Additionally, you may want to bring in printouts of comparable cars from other dealers at the price you want to pay (or have this information handy on your phone). When you talk to the dealer, agree on the final price of the car first, and don’t talk about trade-ins until after the price is settled. Finally, and most importantly, be prepared to walk away if you don’t get the price you want.

With a little time and research, you can prepare yourself for successful negotiations to find the right car at the right price.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Tips to Help You Find the Right Car for Your Family & Budget

Finding the right car for your family and budget may seem intimidating—but with a little research, you can find a cost-efficient option to suit your needs.
Getting started

Before you ever set foot in a car lot, think about your needs and prioritize your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Will you primarily use it for commuting to work, taking the kids to school and activities, running errands, or taking family trips? Other considerations may include:
·         Size: Number of passengers and amount of cargo space
·         Budget: What you can afford to spend monthly, and whether you have a trade-in
·         Features: All-wheel drive, fuel efficiency, entertainment, navigation system, a roof rack, and others
Also, think about parking, how long you anticipate having the car, and options for a new, used or leased vehicle.

Conducting initial research

Start your research online. It’s an easy way to learn about what’s available in your area. 

Several websites can help you find options that fit your wish list and budget. You might try Pen Air’s Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar. Other options include,,, and You may also decide to visit a local dealership or attend an auto show to get hands-on with specific car models and types.

Once you have some initial ideas, ask around. Personal reviews and referrals from people you trust can prove most valuable. You may ask: Which cars have you owned or driven? What did you like or dislike about the cars? Where did you purchase or lease your car, and how was your experience with the seller?

You’ll have more negotiating leverage with dealers or other sellers if you know exactly how much you can spend. So, consider getting pre-approved for a car loan from your local credit union or Pen Air before you start seriously shopping. Check out local rates and use a Car Loan Calculator to dial in your budget, and ask Pen Air for discounts that are available to you as a member of Pen Air Federal Credit Union.

Managing the search process—and the test-drive

Once you’ve narrowed your list to a few selected car types and models that meet your needs visit a few dealerships and test-drive any options you may be interested in. A visit to the dealership is an opportunity to learn as much as possible about before you make a major purchase, so don’t buy impulsively or feel pressured to sign on the dotted line.

After the test drive, take a few days to review your options. When you’re close to a decision, check or for information on the new car’s price range or the used car’s value, based on its condition. This information will prove invaluable to you when negotiating the price. Both sites have apps, so download them and bring them along for instant access to this information if needed. You can also check Pen Air’s Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar, for a no-hassle buying experience.

With some research, budget-planning, and money management, you can find the perfect car for you and your family. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How to Increase Your “Communerosity”

If you could do one thing for your community, what would it be? Increase your community + generosity (or, as we call it, communerosity) with these tips.

Joining your neighbors to give back

At Pen Air, we believe in supporting our local community using our time, talents, and sponsorships. The spirit of communerosity shines through our employee-driven fundraising program, Jeans for Generosity.  We offer financial support to a number of local organizations, including the Beacon Shelter for Women & Children, the Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen, and the Pensacola Humane Society. We also encourage our employees to volunteer with local nonprofits. In return, we reap enormous benefits—learning more about our community, getting to know our neighbors, and giving back.

Getting started

If you’re ready to ramp up your communerosity, think about what you’d like to do. Are you interested in tutoring at-risk kids, building homes for those in need, or perhaps beautifying a park?

It may help to start by listing existing skills, hobbies, or interests, or areas you’d like to learn more about. For example, if you enjoy art, consider becoming a volunteer docent at your local art museum. Love animals?  Volunteer some time each week to help out at the local shelter. Whatever your interest, makes it easy to browse volunteer organizations in your area. 

No time to volunteer?  Organizations are always in need of monetary and material support.  Consider donating financially to your favorite local charity, or donating new or gently used items to an organization that will pass them along to those in need. 

Finding the time

If you do want to volunteer your time, fitting community involvement into your busy schedule doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Look for organizations that can use the time you have available. If you’re not sure how much time you can commit, start with one hour at a time—even if you just get together with a group of neighbors to clean up a park.

Increasing your “communerosity”

Volunteering is an outstanding way to get to know your neighbors and fellow citizens while making a difference in the lives of others. At Pen Air, we believe it is important to share our resources with those in need.  We hope you’ll take the time to share your knowledge and experience, too. Together, we can make Pensacola an even better place for everyone in the community.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Finding a Real Estate Agent Who Understands Your Needs

The process of buying or selling a home can be intimidating, but with a few steps, you can build your knowledge of available properties that fit your needs and find a professional real estate agent to help guide you through the process.

Getting started

Real estate agents are trained individuals who will work with you to buy or sell a home. If you’re buying a house, they may help you find appropriate properties for your needs and budget; negotiate with sellers; put together legal paperwork including offers; and recommend trusted local home inspectors, lawyers and contractors. If you’re selling, they will advise you on how best to prepare your home for sale; list your home on online sites and local papers; conduct open houses; negotiate with buyers and their agents; and manage the sales process. Agents must be licensed by the state in which you want to buy or sell a home and a good agent is knowledgeable about both sides of the deal and will advise you every step of the way.

Prioritizing your needs

Consider the details that will impact your home search or sale. For example: What’s your timeframe for buying or selling your home? If you’re buying, what is your ideal location? What is your budget — and have you been pre-approved for a loan?

For home buyers, make a list of must-have and nice-to-have features in a home. How many bedrooms and bathrooms you would like to have? Do you need a home office, open family space, a garage, or a fenced yard? How close would you like to be to neighborhood schools and shops?

For sellers, consider timing, the anticipated market value of your house, and the unique attributes or benefits of your house and how they can be shown to buyers.  

Simultaneously, put together questions for prospective agents. You might ask: What’s your process for buying or selling a house? How many home sales are you directly involved in each year? What do your services include? What isn’t included that I will need?

Researching and finding an agent

Ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations, but remember that you are hiring an agent to do a job for you.  Take the time to get to know them and ensure they understand your needs and are a good, trusted partner for you. Attend open houses in your desired neighborhood to learn about available properties, talk with prospective agents, and ask questions. You can research local properties, agents, and open houses online at Pensacola Area MLS or Baldwin County MLS.

With a little planning, you’ll find an agent who understands your needs and can help guide you through the process.