First Credit Union & Insurance and Westview Agencies close early to enable staff to volunteer in the community.

orca busOn Thursday, June 22nd we will celebrate our 3rd annual Community Impact Day by closing at 2PM to enable all 140 employees to volunteer in the communities that they serve. This is an opportunity for us to lend a hand and show our gratitude to some of the remarkable non-profit organizations who work every day for the benefit of others.

Credit unions exist to serve their members, not to make a profit. Our ‘people-first’ philosophy inspires us to get involved in our community and support worthwhile causes. Every year we give back thousands of dollars to our communities through scholarships, donations and sponsorships – Community Impact Day is a way for us to give back by volunteering our time.

Join First Credit Union, First Insurance, and Westview Agencies for Community Impact Day on June 22nd by  volunteering for a cause you care about. Looking for volunteer opportunities in your community? Check out Volinspire, an online community engagement platform that connects volunteers with community organizations. http://www.volinspire.com

To Lease or To Finance: That is the Question!

When it comes to buying a new car, you have three options: purchasing it with cash, purchasing it through a loan (also known as financing) or leasing it. For most shoppers, the decision comes down to buying or leasing.

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On the surface, the differences between leasing and buying a vehicle seem fairly straightforward. Leasing a car means you’ll usually have access to a new set of wheels every few years; buying it likely means that you plan to drive the same car for a much longer period of time. Leasing usually includes a warranty that covers most of your repairs; buying means accepting larger repair costs, which are inevitable as the car ages. Leasing agreements can limit your mileage and your ability to customize your ride; buying means you can put as many kilometres as you want on the car and customize it however you’d like.

Looking only at the comparisons above, you might conclude that buying a car is a more practical and economical option than leasing a car—but if that’s really the case, why are monthly lease payments so much lower (often 40% lower!) than monthly loan payments? Why is leasing considered more expensive in the long term if you’re paying less on a month-to-month basis? To answer these questions, let’s take a look at the concept of depreciation.

Depreciation means a loss of value over time. New cars are a textbook example—you’ve likely heard that a car loses thousands of dollars in value the moment you drive it off the lot. That’s accurate, and that’s depreciation at work (and yes, it can be kind of depressing).

All cars depreciate in value over time, but the steepest drop happens in the first three to five years, as you can see below:

  • Brand new to 5 years old—the car depreciates by 15% to 20% of its value each year
  • From 5 years to 10 years—the rate of depreciation slows slightly to 10% to 15% of its value each year
  • 10+ years—the rate of depreciation tends to level out to less than 5% a year. By this time, the car is usually worth less than one-fifth of its retail price!

Depreciation takes its toll on the value of every vehicle. However, your decision to lease or buy will have an effect on how that depreciation influences your finances.

When you finance a car, you own it once you pay off the loan. This means that you personally take the hit on its depreciation, but it also means you also “own” its residual value. Although that value depreciates over time, if there comes a time when you’re ready to sell it or trade it in, you get the benefit of that resale or trade-in value.

By contrast, when you lease a car, you never actually own it. The company that leases the car to you is responsible for selling the car once you’ve completed your lease term. The leasing company also ultimately deals with the car’s depreciation in value. You get to drive a brand new car without needing to think about its loss in value. That sounds pretty great, right? In reality, even though the leasing company deals with the eventual sale of the car, you’re the one who makes up for its loss in value through your monthly payments. That payment includes an estimate of how much the car will depreciate by the time your term is up. Monthly payments are lower because you’re not paying for the entire car—you’re just paying for how much the car will depreciate in those few years that you’re driving it (a period of time when, coincidentally, the car depreciates the most).

When you finance a car, the monthly payments are higher because you are paying for the entire car, plus interest on the loan. When you pay the loan back, your monthly payments stop (unlike leasing payments, which continue as long as you’re still leasing) and even though your car will have depreciated in value by that point, you will own the remaining value.

As with any major financial decision, there are also other factors that come into play. You need to be realistic about your budget and honest about your lifestyle, and you need to figure out what’s most important to you as a new car owner. How comfortable are you with the limitations set by a lease agreement? How prepared are you to pay for eventual car repairs? Will driving a new car every two to three years be worth thousands of dollars more in the long run? To some people, it might be—it all depends on a combination of your personal needs and preferences.

Engage and Connect: the Heart of Community Impact Day.

On June 9th, First Credit Union celebrated its 77th anniversary. Since we opened our doors in 1939, the way we do business has changed significantly (it’s hard to remember what we did before computers came along!); but what hasn’t changed is our personalized, hands-on approach to helping our members and our community.

We believe in engaging in activities that result in connecting  with members and the communities we serve. Community Impact Day is an opportunity to work alongside non-profit organizations painting, weeding, building fences and clearing brush for a few hours – a powerful way to connect with our community.

This year’s Community Impact Day will be taking place tomorrow, June 16th–please be advised that all of our branches will be closing early at 2pm while we head out to volunteer! To get a better idea of what Community Impact Day means to our staff, our local non-profit organizations, and our communities, check out this video from last year’s event that achieved such great success that this project has become annual.

Top budgeting strategies that you need to know

Check out this fun video to find out what you need to know about budgeting!

Boost Your Credit Score: 4 Myths Debunked

Credit scores are an area of personal finance that seem a lot more mysterious than they actually are. Many people believe that improving them is a matter of trial and error and, as a result, there’s a lot of “credit score advice” floating around that can end up doing more harm than good. Four common credit score myths have been rounded up and debunked below:

MYTH #1: You have no control over your credit score

There are a lot of factors that make this myth easy to buy into—credit bureaus keep their exact credit score formulas a secret, you can’t access your credit report whenever you’d like online without paying a fee and it’s possible to be financially stable and still have a miserable score. It’s OK to find credit scores confusing, but if you have an accompanying “there’s nothing I can do about it” mentality, ditch it right now! Your credit score is a reflection of your borrowing and repayment behaviours, and that means you have a lot more control over it than you think.

MYTH #2: There’s a “quick fix” for your credit score

Although junk mail and late night commercials try to convince you otherwise, boosting your credit score doesn’t happen overnight. The good news is that the things you can do to positively influence your score are simple and don’t require a lot of time (or even that much effort!)—but the trade-off is that you’ll have to be patient while waiting for your new good credit habits to take effect. Your credit score is more of a track record than a snapshot, so consistency is key.

MYTH #3: Checking my credit report will negatively affect my score

This myth comes from confusing two different types of credit score inquiries: hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries are made by lenders or credit card companies when you apply for a new line of credit (a loan, a new credit card or a mortgage, for example). Soft inquiries are made by you or by others for background check purposes (a potential employer or landlord, for example). Because hard inquiries suggest you might be taking on more credit soon, they usually lower your score by a few points. Soft inquiries, on the other hand, do not affect your credit score in any way. This means you have nothing to lose by accessing your own score—in fact, doing so will help you understand what your current credit activity looks like and how you can improve it.

Note: there are some situations (like renting a car or a landlord running a credit check) where either a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry can be made. In these cases, it’s a good idea to find out beforehand what kind of inquiry will be made so that you know what to expect.

MYTH #4: Opening or closing a bunch of credit cards will improve my score

Even though these actions are the complete opposite of each other, this myth is still widespread—and very misleading. This is because opening and closing credit cards affects several different aspects of your credit score.

Opening new credit cards gives you more available credit, which in turn lowers your credit utilization ratio. This is a fancy term for the amount of available credit you actually use each month. (For example, if you have one credit card with a $1,000 limit and charge $200 to your credit card that month, your credit utilization ratio is 20%). Lowering your credit utilization ratio is a good thing, so opening new credit cards to boost your score might seem like a solid strategy. But remember those pesky hard inquiries? Opening a bunch of new credit cards means a sudden increase in the number of hard inquiries. Each hard inquiry docks a few points from your score, and if many are made within a short amount of time, it makes you look risky, which can further influence your credit score in a negative way.

So then closing a bunch of accounts must be the way to go, right? Not quite. Depending on the accounts you close, you could unintentionally be raising your credit utilization ratio and shortening the overall length of your credit history. Both of these consequences lower your credit score.

The best approach is to space out any credit account openings or closings. Try to time them in a way that any short-term negative impact on your credit score won’t interfere with an important upcoming car loan or mortgage. Do your research, only apply for credit products you need, and understand what a specific credit card is contributing to your score before making the decision to close it (that first college credit card may have a low limit and no rewards, but if it’s adding a few years on to your credit history, it’s best to keep it in rotation).


5 Identity Theft Jackpots (and How You Can Safeguard Against Them)

Identity theft is nothing new, and yet it still manages to cost its victims billions of dollars (yes, that’s billions with a “b”) globally each year—not to mention the time and hassle involved in recovering a stolen identity.

The good news is that there are tons of things you can do to deter identity thieves. The bad news is that many of us do little beyond choosing a decent password—and some people don’t even bother doing that! Here are the top 5 information jackpots for identity thieves, along with helpful tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself.

Your Trash Can

  1.  Your Trash Can

Even if you’re really careful about the information you put online, your trash bags and recycling bin can still be an easy target for identity thieves. Dumpster diving may sound old school, but it’s still an easy way for identity thieves to get access to your personal information.

  •  Get a shredder (a basic model will run you $20 to $30 at a big-box store) and use it!
  • Get into the habit of shredding things before throwing them out, especially things like bank statements, expired credit cards, utility bills, cellphone bills, paycheque stubs, old boarding passes and travel itineraries, and ATM receipts.
  • Don’t forget to check your envelopes! Anything with your name and address on it needs to be shredded, too.

Your Phone

  1. Your Phone

Odds are that you’re carrying a lot more in your phone than just your contact list. With smartphone theft on the rise, protect yourself:

  • Have a password-protected lock on your home screen. This is a standard feature on all smartphones for a reason, so take advantage of it! Bonus points if your smartphone also has location tracking (also known as the “find my phone” feature).
  • Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so avoid checking your bank accounts or doing your online shopping from the local coffee shop or during your layover at the airport.
  • Do not store sensitive information on your phone—storing passwords or login information in a note-taking app is bad news.

The Pin Pad

  1. The PIN Pad

It seems like every few months a new point-of-purchase scheme emerges—skimming devices, keystroke loggers, ATM hacking… the list goes on! Here are some good practices for when you’re out and about:

  • When making a purchase, keep your debit or credit card in sight at all times.
  • Use your hand to block the buttons when entering your PIN number, even if there’s no one immediately behind you—a camera can always be watching.
  • Choose a good PIN. Avoid PINs derived from your personal information, like your telephone number, address or birthday. Avoid an easy-to-guess PIN, like the dreaded “1234”.
  • Change up your PIN, especially if you use the same combination for your debit card and for unlocking your cellphone.

Your Mailbox

  1. Your Mailbox

Like the trash-picker approach mentioned above, mail tampering is a low-tech but relatively easy way for identity thieves to compromise your personal information. Here’s what you can do:

  • Familiarize yourself with your billing cycles. A late credit card statement or a bill that never shows up could be a sign of mail tampering.
  • Identity thieves will sometimes request a change of address to illegally reroute your mail to a different location. If you suddenly stop receiving mail, check with the post office to make sure this isn’t the case.
  • Use a mailbox with a locking system to deter thieves.

Your Computer

  1. Your Computer

You would think that this one would be common knowledge by now, but every so often a virus or scam comes along that trips us up. Stay one step ahead of scammers:

  • Keep your firewall, anti-virus and operating system software up-to-date. No matter how new and fast your laptop is, it still needs protection.
  • Enable spam filters on your email accounts.
  • Look out for sketchy links and emails. Ignore any suspicious password reset requests, unexpected tracking numbers or anything that asks for your personal information via email.
  • Don’t overshare on social media. Do your Facebook friends really need to know what year you were born? Can people tell when no one is home based on your Instagram feed? Keep your accounts private and make sure you’re not accidentally broadcasting sensitive information.

By being aware of the top 5 information jackpots and by implementing these simple strategies, you can keep identity thieves at bay.