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Founded by School Teachers; First Financial FCU Stays True to its Roots and its Community 

August 24, 2016 Categories: legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. In our third installment of the Legacy Series, we’re featuring a credit union founded during the Depression by a group of teachers in Asbury Park, N.J.

The Great Depression started in 1929, and continued for more than a decade. During that time, the economy came to a standstill, banks were failing left and right, and many people were resorting to the only safe haven they knew for their money – under the mattress. In 1936, a group of Asbury Park, N.J. schoolteachers decided there was another way to provide essential banking services to themselves and others, all while protecting their savings. 

In true cooperative spirit, this group came together to help each other in a time of need and organized themselves into one of the earliest credit unions in America: Monmouth County, NJ Teachers Federal Credit Union. Today, 80 years later, that credit union still exists, much larger and now known as First Financial Federal Credit Union. 

Getting from Monmouth County Teachers FCU to First Financial FCU took more than a few years of growth and expansion, cooperative efforts, and dedication to specific communities. Under the leadership of Harold “Pop” Shannon, the credit union grew to serve other teacher-related populations: employees of both the Monmouth and Ocean County Boards of Education. The small shop went through a name change to reflect the groups it served: Mon-Oc Teachers Federal Credit Union.

From that small office in Asbury Park (pictured), over the years the credit union expanded again to serve municipal employees (followed by another name change, to Mon-Oc Public Employees Federal Credit Union), employees of some local hospitals and nursing facilities, and several small businesses (when the name then became simply Mon-Oc Federal Credit Union).

In April 2003, Mon-Oc FCU became a community credit union, serving anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. With this expansion, the credit union became First Financial Federal Credit Union in July 2006.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, the credit union stays true to its roots as an organization founded by teachers. “Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we have stayed true to our educational roots by continuing to support our members and the local community through financial education,” says First Financial FCU President/CEO, Issa Stephan. “We hold free monthly seminars on various important topics such as budgeting, credit management, debt reduction, how to buy a home or car, and more. Our Foundation provides annual college scholarships to Monmouth and Ocean County students, as well as classroom grants to teachers within our community. We are proud to support our local teachers, students, and educate as many members of our community as we can.”

First Financial FCU may have grown and seen some changes in its 80 years, but it has stayed true to its early years as a dedicated source for financial education and services for its community.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on First Financial Federal Credit Union, including how to join, visit www.firstffcu.com or find one near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

 

New Jersey CUs Display Credit Union Difference During National Night Out 

By: Daniel Jacinto

Credit unions live by the philosophy of “people helping people”. To do their part, credit unions around the world contribute to local communities and demonstrate the “credit union difference”, meaning what sets them apart from other traditional financial institutions. Several credit unions across the country went to the next level by partaking in National Night Out this August 2nd.

What is National Night Out?
National Night Out (NNO) serves as a community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie, making our neighborhoods a safer and better place to live. National Night Out unites law enforcement and neighbors to create a true sense of community. Neighborhoods across the nation host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, and exhibits.

The National Association of Town Watch (NATW) is the nation’s premiere non-profit crime prevention organization dedicated to the development and promotion of crime prevention in communities across the country. NATW is a network of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups, state and regional crime prevention associations and concerned citizens. Through this network the NNO campaign was launched.

New Jersey Credit Unions/CU Leagues at NNO

Andrews Federal Credit Union – Washington D.C. & New Jersey
Andrews FCU participated in the festivities in eight of the communities it serves in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan and New Jersey regions respectively. Staff members shared the benefits of credit union membership to all in attendance.

Find Andrews Federal on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.

Bay Atlantic Federal Credit Union – Vineland, N.J.
Vineland Police hosted the eighth annual National Night Out in Vineland, N.J. where Bay Atlantic FCU participated in the festivities with the community for the second year in a row. Volunteers from the credit union handed out goodies, valuable identity theft information, and shared the credit union difference. NNO goers of all ages got a chance to spin the Bay Atlantic FCU wheel to win fun prizes.

Find Bay Atlantic FCU on Facebook and view their NNO photos.

Jersey Shore Federal Credit Union – Southern New Jersey
Jersey Shore FCU participated in National Night Out in a total of five communities in southern New Jersey. Brigantine, Galloway, Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing, Hammonton, and Middle Township National Night Outs all welcomed Jersey Shore FCU representatives to distribute giveaways and play games. Click on the above communities to see pictures and festivities.

Find Jersey Shore FCU on Facebook and Twitter to see more photos of NNO festivities.

Members 1st of New Jersey Federal Credit Union – Vineland, N.J.
Members 1st of New Jersey FCU participated in their first National Night Out festivities in Vineland, N.J. Volunteers from the credit union handed out giveaways to the National Night Out goers.

View more pictures of their festivities on their Twitter page.

MidState Federal Credit Union – Carteret, N.J.
MidState FCU held its own National Night Out celebration at its branch location August 2nd as part of the community of Carteret’s participation. The credit union had visits from the police department (the chief included), the fire department, and a councilwoman. The credit union manned a table from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. giving out brochures and fun giveaways.

Check out MidState FCU on Facebook for pictures.

New Jersey Credit Union League – Hightstown, N.J.
The New Jersey Credit Union League represented New Jersey credit unions and interacted with its local community of East Windsor, N.J. for the second consecutive year during NNO. League staff members shared the benefits of credit union membership as well as identity theft prevention tips with National Night Out goers.

National Night Out attendees were encouraged to take a spin on the ID theft trivia wheel to test their knowledge and win several prizes. Adults and children, some even toddlers, took a shot at ID theft questions, though everyone was a winner. Attendees won beach balls, glow sticks, and temporary tattoos as well as brochures on the credit union difference and tips for preventing identity theft.

More photos are available on the New Jersey Credit Union League Facebook page. Also, check out the Banking You Can Trust campaign on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Founded by Dedicated Educators, Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union Invites You to Join its Extended Family 

August 03, 2016 Categories: legacy series

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. Today, we’re featuring a credit union that got its start in Hackensack High School, which has now grown into a 19,000-member family that serves the entire surrounding area.

In 1937 five dedicated educators founded a credit union in Hackensack High School, established primarily for the purpose of serving teachers and their immediate families. One can only presume that at least one of the founders was a math or home economics teacher. From those humble beginnings sprang a tradition of more than 75 years of commitment to members, community, and service.

As it grew, membership was expanded to include a diverse mix of communities, employee groups, and associations in Bergen and Passaic Counties. Eventually the name was changed to reflect the broader membership, becoming Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union (GAFCU).

But despite its growth and expansion, one thing never changed – GAFCU has stayed true to its family-focused roots. The credit union itself is a family, and this may be one of the reasons for their enviable record of employee retention. Almost half (around 43%) of their employees have been with the credit union for 10 years or more, and more than two-thirds have been there for at least five years or more. The credit union has had only three CEOs since the 30’s—an unbelievable rarity in the financial services industry.

Its current CEO, Glenn Guinto, also has deep roots in the Greater Alliance family, having begun his career there as a part-time teller. His assistant, Antonietta “Tony” Tartaglione, has worked at the credit union for over 30 years, starting when she was in high school in 1978, when there were only two other employees other than herself.

“Our employee tenure is what makes us an institution in the truest sense of the word,” says Guinto. “Our members have been with us for many generations and we can attribute our tenure as one of the main reasons that we’ve developed their trust in us.”

In his free time, Guinto still enjoys visiting the credit union’s branch lobbies and saying hello to members that he used to wait on as a teller. “I enjoy talking to our members—and sometimes their children. Most of them still remember when I was waiting on them from over the counter,” adds Guinto.

From those five educators in 1937,  Greater Alliance has grown into a community credit union, owned by its over 19,000 members. If you live, work, worship,  go to school in, or if you belong to a business or any legal entity within Bergen or Passaic County, you are invited to join the rest of the family at Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Greater Alliance FCU, including how to join, visit www.greateralliance.org or find a credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

Thunderbolt Area FCU’s Rich History: Keeping it in the Family  

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”.  Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. Today we’re featuring a credit union founded by eight toolmakers who worked in America’s first Defense Airport.

The South Jersey town of Millville is rich in history, most famously known as the home of the Millville Municipal Airport, the first training ground in the country for pilots during World War II. Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union, located at the airport entrance, is a part of that history and holds quite a story of its own.

Its president, Bob Millard, is the son of the credit union’s founder, Asher K. Millard. Asher worked for Airwork Corporation, the engine overhaul shop located in Millville, as a toolmaker. He and seven other Airwork employees began Airwork Employees Federal Credit Union – later to become Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union – by pooling together their money, $5 each at the time. Until then, Asher had kept his money in a safe at home, lending to friends in need when he could. Laying the foundation for the credit union came as a natural next step for him.

The credit union gained its federal charter on May 1, 1951 and was located on the premises of its original sponsor company, Airwork Corp. Asher, however, couldn’t take off work from his position as a toolmaker to operate the credit union. So, his wife, Helen K. Millard, worked there part-time, for no pay, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Their son, current Thunderbolt Area Federal Credit Union president Bob Millard, at the ripe age of 8, began helping his parents with calculations. “Effectively I have been involved in some way for nearly 65 years,” says Millard. He was then elected to the board of directors in 1968 and eventually took over as president when his father retired in 1985.

When asked why he began working at the credit union, and continued for as long as he has, Millard says it’s the philosophy of “people helping people” that brought him there and kept him there. “I liked the concept,” he explains, “To help an individual, someone who just walks in, needs help, that’s where it counts.”

Where does the name Thunderbolt Area come from? It was also taken from the pages of the history of Millville. The Thunderbolt P-47 was a plane flown in World War II, and pilots of these planes were trained at the nation’s first Army airfield: Millville Municipal Airport. “Area” comes from the credit union’s change in charter to serve the surrounding area.

Through the years, Thunderbolt Area FCU has stayed true to its roots—its community and its humble beginnings—due to its founding family.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on Thunderbolt Area FCU, including how to join, visit www.tbafcu.com or find a credit union near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com

But, How Much Debt is TOO MUCH Debt? 

By Daniel Jacinto

Thinking of taking on debt? For example, opening a credit card or purchasing a car or home? Unsure how much of it is too much? This is quite an ambiguous question because many have different opinions on debt. Some believe having it is taboo, even when it comes to buying a house. Others believe it’s fine to have debt as long as you can afford the payments.

Credit and debt go hand-in-hand. Credit is a financial device such as a car loan, mortgage, or credit card that people can get from a credit union or other financial institution. Credit serves as a source of funding when you don't have enough cash or assets to pay for things you want or need. (a car, a home, college education, etc.). Debt is what you owe after obtaining credit.

The amount of debt you can and should take on depends on your situation. Current living arrangements, current debt, your spending and saving habits, and how much you’re getting paid are some factors that go into deciding how much debt is too much for you.

According to CFA Elvis Picardo, a good rule-of-thumb to calculate a reasonable amount of debt would be to use the 28/36 Rule. This rule suggests that households shouldn’t spend more than 28% of their gross income on housing expenses (including mortgage payments, home insurance, property taxes, and condo fees), and a maximum of 36% on total debt service (housing expenses + other debt). For example, on a $40,000 salary following the 28/36 Rule, housing expenses should not exceed $11,200 for the year or about $933 monthly. Other personal debt should not exceed $3,200 annually or $267 monthly. Use this rule as a starting point to calculate your reasonable debt load.

Now that we’ve covered one big purchase let’s focus on another: your car. When deciding how much car you can afford (not how much you should spend on a car) it all depends on your needs, lifestyle, and how much you take home. According to www.moneyunder30.com, there are three answers to the question of how much car you can afford: the frugal answer (10% of income), the compromise (20% of income), and car lover (spending more than typically recommended for most people, perhaps up to 50% percent of your income).

If your car needs aren’t excessive and you just need a “beater” that goes from point A to B, then the frugal approach suggests between 10-15% of your salary should be how much you spend on a car. For example, if your income were $30,000/year, a good rule-of-thumb would be to purchase a car that’s between $3,000-$4,500 likely with high mileage.

This must all sound really conservative to you right now, but let’s compromise. What if you’re looking for something a little bit more reliable and safer to accommodate family needs? You’d probably want something newer that’ll last longer, right? For a more reliable, newer car, 20-25% of your income would be a good benchmark. If you make $30,000 a year, you’d be spending between $6,000-$7,500.

I know there are some readers still thinking even that is too strict and unrealistic for their car needs. Well, if you have a passion for cars and value cars more than other items, you may fall under the “car lover” category. The www.moneyunder30.com blog gives the OK to spend up to 50% of your income on your car, but only if you can afford it along with your other expenses. Just be cautious. If your car is your largest expense, be weary of other expenses.

Be mindful of your financial situation as a whole before you apply for a loan and go into debt. If you’re able to afford the payments, are confident you’ll get a return on your investment, and qualify for a good interest rate, then debt is very much a tool at your disposal. Great interest rates on mortgages can land you a profitable home if it appreciates in value over the long term. Getting a student loan to beef up your knowledge and can earn you more income over your lifetime.

Most credit unions have competitive interest rates on mortgages, student loans, car loans, credit cards, and more. Find a credit union that can provide you with the tools to grow your worth over your lifetime at www.bankingyoucantrust.com

Push ‘Start’ on Leveling-Up Your Child’s Financial Skills 

By Daniel Jacinto

According to www.FinancialLiteracyMonth.com, Americans are over $2 trillion in consumer debt and 30% of consumers report not having extra money; thus making it impossible to avoid living paycheck to paycheck for some Americans. Some of these families living paycheck to paycheck have children that will see their financial struggle and may miss out on crucial financial skills they’ll need for their future.

Too many Americans are also insufficiently educated about personal finance. The National Financial Educators Council issued a 30-question National Financial Literacy Test designed to measure young participants’ ability to earn, save and grow their money. Fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds scored 61.24% out of 100% nationally on this financial literacy test in 2015. These results show the American youth is lacking basic financial skills and education.

As part of National Financial Literacy Month and National Credit Union Youth Month, celebrated in April, we’re sharing great ways to engage your child in developing their financial skills that are both educational and fun! Be your child’s “player two” in these financial games and help them level-up their financial literacy in a fun way your child can relate to.

Financial Football. Test your financial knowledge in this fast-paced, NFL-themed game developed by Visa. Answer a series of financial questions that will allow your team to move down the field to score touchdowns. This game is for ages 11 and up and parents may even learn a thing or two from it! Visa put together a handful of financial games available on their Practical Money Skills for Life Web site.

Celebrity Calamity. Help celebrities manage their financial life as they hire you to keep their budget on track. The goal is to keep the celebrity happy by making any required purchases on their behalf and maintaining a budget. Players will decide how purchases will be charged (via debit or credit card). Players will learn about credit card balances, interest rates, and minimum payments.

Hit the Road: A Financial Adventure. Choose your own character and career as well as two other friends and go on a journey to Colorado from Washington, D.C. In this game, players will learn to manage a budget by saving and spending their money wisely to complete several challenges along the way to Colorado for a ski trip.

Games and Activities from MyCreditUnion.gov. Choose from several financial games on www.mycreditunion.gov for ages 5 and up brought to you by the National Credit Union Administration. Match coins to earn money and decide how to spend it in building your own magical world in World of Cents. Fill-up your own piggy bank after answering coin trivia correctly in Break the Bank.

Financial Reality Fairs. Many of New Jersey’s school districts have partnered with local credit unions, the New Jersey Credit Union League, and the New Jersey Credit Union Foundation to bring financial Reality Fairs to students from 8th grade, through high school and into the first year of college. A Financial Reality Fair is a hands-on “game of life” that give students a real perspective of how much life can cost and a taste of how to budget within their means. Over 5,600 students in the state have benefitted from this program in the last 5 years. Has your child’s school district hosted a financial Reality Fair?

Your local credit union may provide financial education seminars teaching budgeting, saving, and other important financial literacy topics for FREE! Find a credit union near you by visiting www.bankingyoucantrust.com.

What Is Identity Theft? 

By Federal Trade Commission
March 30, 2016 Categories: identity protection protect yourself

How to Cope with Daylight Savings Time 

By Daniel Jacinto
March 09, 2016 Categories: saving tips

It’s that time of year again where the temperature warms up and the huge snow mounds left over from worse days are all or nearly melted. It’s also that time to spring forward! The clocks will change for Daylight Savings Time (DST) on March 13th this year at 2 a.m. The effects of this one-hour change will give you an extra hour of sunlight at the expense of one hour of glorious beauty sleep.

How can you cope with the change and avoid the grogginess when you lose your hour of sleep when the time changes? Here are a few tips to help with the adjustment:

Go to bed a little earlier the night before.

It’ll help you feel completely recharged the next morning! It’ll probably make it easy to not crush your snooze button first thing in the morning or snooze your various alarm clocks set up on your smartphone. Disclaimer: This is providing you aren’t already sleep deprived or consuming alcohol or caffeine before bedtime. But really, who isn’t already sleep deprived or with a nightcap before bedtime?

Reset your internal clock.

Light suppresses the secretion of the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. It’s important to spend as many hours in light during the day and limit your exposure to light in dark hours. Another added plus, a lower energy bill! WARNING: DO NOT live in complete pitch black darkness in your house. You might knock over your favorite coffee mug walking through the halls and ruin your Monday morning before it even starts. Please do have a night-light installed so you can see where you are going in your home.

Practice good sleep hygiene and create a sleep-friendly environment.

If you need to wake up early, don’t pick up your favorite alcoholic drink right before bed! I know it’s tempting, but Mondays are already difficult to take. Don’t make it worse. Also, don’t drink any caffeinated beverages right before bed. Why wake yourself up before getting ready to go to bed?

Practice some calming rituals before going to bed. Take a hot bath or wear (comfortable) earplugs and eye masks. It’s crucial you wake up at the same time every day as well.

So there you have it. Some easy ideas (I hope) to help your Monday morning after you spring forward!

7 Thoughtful Gifts for Your Valentine Without Breaking the Bank 

By Daniel Jacinto
February 08, 2016 Categories: saving Valentine's Day

The romantic day of the year is upon us! As most other holiday gifts, Valentine’s Day gifts can be pricey… but you can impress your sweetheart this year and still leave your budget intact. Remember what mom and dad used to say? “It’s the thought that counts.” You just have to use some creativity (and lots and lots of love) to come up with one of the most thoughtful gifts for your Valentine.

Let the creativity begin! Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Order a Customized Jigsaw Puzzle
Shutterfly.com lets you create a jigsaw puzzle out of a photo of you and your sweetheart. 

2. Cook a Romantic Dinner
Home-cooked, candle-lit dinner for two? This is surely a romantic way to tell your sweetheart how much they mean to you. Pick up the ingredients for your loved one’s favorite meal and prepare it for a romantic evening.

3. Put Together a Bag of Your Partner’s Favorite Sweets
Charm a loved one with a bag of their favorite candies. Find a decorative bag at grocery store and fill it with sweets you know your love craves. Tie a big red bow and voila!

4. Breakfast in Bed
Cook up your sweetheart’s favorite breakfast and present it with some flowers and a card bedside.

5. Handmade Romantic Card
Let your artistic side flow! Even if you aren’t Michelangelo himself you can certainly create a masterpiece card that your love will adore. Create a sweet or silly card and fill it with love.

6. Make a Printed Photo Book
Create a small photo book with a couple of pictures highlighting special experiences together. There are sites online that let you upload photos and construct a photo book. Here are just a couple mentioned in The Washington Post.

7. Create a Video Collage
For the more tech-savvy, create a video montage with photos of you and your sweetheart with their favorite song in the background. Most computers nowadays come pre-installed with free easy-to-use video editing software. 

 

4 Reasons You Should Join a Credit Union Today! 

By Daniel Jacinto

Ever wanted to join a credit union? Don’t know what a credit union can do for you?

Let’s start with a brief overview…

Credit unions are the financial world’s best-kept secret. There are 217 million credit union members spread out over 57 thousand credit unions in 105 countries.

These member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperatives provide a number of financial services to members. Credit union membership is based on commonality. Members belonging to a specific, community, organization, religion or employer are able to join a credit union.

Read on for four reasons to join today!

Member-Owned, Not-for-Profit Financial Institution
The not-for-profit structure of these cooperatives means that any net income is used to benefit the credit union member. Members will see lower interest rates on loans, higher interest rates on savings accounts, dividends, or new product and service development at the credit union.

And, almost all credit unions have unpaid, volunteers as that make up their board of directors, unlike other financial institutions whose directors and shareholders benefit from the profits made.

Low Rates on Loans
Credit unions offer substantially lower loan rates compared to banks, especially when it comes to car loans. According to an SNL Financial, Inc. December 2015 study, the interest rate for a new car loan (48 months) at a credit union is 2.58% in contrast to 4.62% at a bank. For used car loans (48 months) credit unions offer 2.78% interest in comparison to 5.16% with banks.

Little to No Banking Fees
In terms of banking fees, you’ll probably find little to no fees at credit unions in contrast to their counterparts. Whether it’s checking account fees, foreign ATM fees, or penalty fees, at a credit union they will likely be lower or not there at all.

Highly Rated Member Service
Credit unions are known for their member service. “Credit unions are among the highest-rated services we’ve ever evaluated, with 93% of their customers highly satisfied, on average, vs. 69% for the four biggest national banks,” said Jeff Blyskal of Consumer Reports.

Credit unions are also highly rated in terms of trust in comparison to big banks. According to Temkin’s Trust Rating Scale, credit unions scored 80%, while the highest rated bank (TD Bank) only scored 66%.

How can you join a credit union?
Find a credit union near you that can offer you these perks and more by visiting www.bankingyoucantrust.com and search for one by zip code. 

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