Home Equity

What's a HELOC and how do I use it?

What’s a HELOC?

HELOCs resemble a second mortgage and also function like a credit card. You are able to draw from this fund whenever needed. Therefore, you don’t have to withdrawal it all at once. The main difference between a HELOC and mortgage loan is that a mortgage is used to buy a home. You never see the money since it’s given to the seller and you pay monthly for a certain period of time. A HELOC is a line of credit that uses your home as collateral that you can withdrawal from at any time. The interest is only paid on the amount that you use. For example, you could get a $50,000 HELOC and only use $10,000 of it. You will only pay interest on the $10,000 that you borrowed.

Six Smart Ways to Use a HELCO

Renovate rooms

This is a great way to increase your home’s value. One of the best rooms to start with is the kitchen. Many homebuyers look for a modern kitchen that is updated with current trends. Using a HELOC to pay for this renovation is a great way to get the most bang for your buck. After your kitchen, focus on bathrooms and then bedrooms.

Convert unused space into living space

Finish your basement or convert unused space into something cozy and livable. This is a great way to add more space to your current layout and will make potential homebuyers intrigued with the amount of usable area in the home. You could also consider adding a mother-in-law suite somewhere in the layout. Adding something like this has the potential of adding quite a bit of value to your home.

Give your home a makeover

Replace siding, doors, garage, etc. for a better outdoor appearance. Having a nice outside appearance will attract buyers and will allow your home to stand out in the neighborhood. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint or a new roof can add to a home’s appearance!

Pay off debt

You can pay off high interest debt such as those typically associated with credit cards. Be careful if you choose to do this because you are gambling your home on it. HELOCs will offer a lower interest rate but have a high level of risk associated with them. Make sure you have a great plan in place to ensure you are able to pay off the HELOC and not default.

Pay for a vacation, college, car, etc.

Along with home improvements and debt consolidation, a HELOC can be used to pay for “fun”. Although this is a very tempting option, make sure you have a solid plan on paying back the loan. REMEMBER… your collateral is your house. If something were to happen and you weren’t able to pay the loan back, you will lose your home!

HELOCs are great tools to use when used correctly. Whether it’s fixing up your home, consolidating debt, or having a little fun; BrightStar CU can get you set up with a low-rate HELOC!


credit cards

What to Look for When Applying for Credit Cards

credit cards

What to Look at When Applying for Credit Cards

There are many different reasons to apply for a credit card. You could be a student looking to build credit, a new parent looking to spread out payments on baby gear, or a smart shopper wanting to receive cash back. It’s very important that you don’t go overboard with charging everything to your credit card. You need to remember that you eventually have to pay the money back.

There are many things to consider when picking the perfect credit card to apply for.

 

Top 4 Things to Know About Your Credit Card

  1. Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of borrowing on the card. This comes into effect if you don’t pay the full balance each month. Each card has a different APR and is calculated by your credit worthiness and other factors. Having a low APR will allow you to pay less in interest if you’re planning on keeping a balance. We recommend paying off your card in full each month so you don’t waste money on these interest payments.
  2. The minimum payment is the lowest amount that you need to pay each month to avoid a fee. If you plan on not paying off your balance each month, it’s important to understand the minimum payment amount that you are required to pay. You will need to make sure you can afford the minimum payment each month so you can budget accordingly.
  3. Rewards can come in the form of discounts, vouchers or merchandise depending on bank. These points add up after each qualifying purchase until you have enough to cash out on the reward. One important thing to look at is to make sure the card you are applying for has qualifying stores that you use. Otherwise, this rewards system isn’t very useful since you won’t be shopping where you have the potential of earning rewards.
  4. Cash back is an important thing to look at because who doesn’t like saving money? Typical card will offer around 1.5% on qualifying purchases. Again, you need to look at where you will earn cash back. Steer clear of cards that only offer cash back at certain stores. There are plenty of credit cards out there that will give you cash back on ALL purchases.

Now that you know the basic components of a credit card, you’re ready to start applying! It’s so important to start building your credit history when you’re young because it allows you to get lower rates on auto loans, mortgages, etc.


Female holding car keys with car on background

Should I Buy a New or Used Car?

What to Consider When Buying a New or Used Car

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to just snap your fingers and have a new car show up in your driveway? Without this ability, you’re going to need to decide whether or not you want to purchase a new or used car. There are pros and cons to each, so developing a personal buying strategy is key.

 

Advantage of a New Car

It’s never been driven! You know the exact history of the car and know it will be reliable. That being said, you usually receive a warranty for the first few years. This is great because it’s less out of pocket expenses if something was to go wrong with the car. Generally, the first few years don’t see a lot of repairs other than maintenance, but it’s a great thing to have.

 

Disadvantage of a New Car

The second you drive that new car off the lot, the car will lose several thousands of dollars due to depreciation. It will be the most expensive two minutes of your life, so enjoy it. Depreciation has the biggest impact on your car during the first two to three years. This can be a little scary, especially if you’re in the hole with the auto loan. That’s why it’s very important to shop around for the best deals and rates so that you can get equity in your car fast. Buying GAP insurance is another way of protecting yourself when buying a new car.

 

Advantage of a New Car

New cars have the new car scent, fresh seating, and the latest technology. These things are important to many people, so deciding if you want to spend the extra money will be a decision you will have to make. An easy way to do this is to make a list of needs and wants. Once you figure out those two categories you can start looking for a perfect match.

 

Advantage of a Used Car

A used car has already taken the largest hit on depreciation, so you aren’t losing value right away. By not taking the large hit, you almost immediately have equity in the car. This is a huge bonus and will give you peace-of-mind. Provided below is an example of how this would be useful.

 

  • Sarah took a loan out for a new car totaling $20,000. The next week, she decides that she doesn’t like it anymore and wants to sell it. Since the car took a major depreciation hit when it left the lot, its value is now $17,000. In essence, she lost $3,000 in a week.

 

With a used car this hit is much less, and you get equity in the car much faster.

 

Disadvantage of a Used Car

Determining what condition the car is in can be a total shot in the dark. Since the car is new to you but used by someone else, the condition is unknown unless a maintenance check is done. Certified pre-owned vehicles have been tested and checked for imperfections, so you approximately know what condition the vehicle is in. With a new car, you know EXACTLY what condition it is in.

 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all answer when it comes to car shopping. When making a decision, you need to determine what you need, want and can AFFORD!


6 Tips on Saving Money this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to re-evaluate your saving’s plan. Here are a few tips on how to keep more cash in your pockets this summer:

A Budget = Your Best Friend

Creating a budget can really help you stay in control of your money. It allows you keep track of how much you are able to spend on certain items and it’s designed to make sure you avoid overspending. With a budget in place, you’ll stay within your means and pocket more savings. The goal of creating a budget though is to stick to it! Be committed to seeing it through to have success.

Look For Free Fun

Going out to have fun is necessary at times, but try to do it a bit less when you want to save extra cash. If you do want to get out of the house, there are a variety of free activities you can do out and about.  There are always free festivals or events going on in the city, you just have to look for them.

Deals Are Golden

During summer time, we all have our adventures planned. But finding deals through the variety of apps and sites available are crucial to having a good time for a low price. You’ll be able to have fun and do it guilt-free when you’ve got a good deal, discount or coupon in tow.

Make Your Own Food

Instead of going and spending $20 dollars a day, you can save more money by meal prepping weekly or making your food at home. You’ll be surprised how much money you can actually pocket if you don’t eat out! As an added bonus, you also become a better chef.

Know Needs From Wants

Try not to impulsive buy; think about whether you really need something or just want it. If you don’t really need it, then save it. The more willpower you have in suppressing each and every want that comes your way, the more in control of your finances you’ll be, and the more money you’ll have in your wallet.

The Big One: Give Your Money A Home!

What better way to save money than to open up a saving account?

At BrightStar Credit Union, we’ve got a variety of options when it comes to saving. See our saving’s options here.

Money comes and goes easily, so be intentional with your cash and what you’re doing with it to become a better saver. The goal for this summer? Have fun, but ball on a budget.


Budgeting Fun

How to Make Budgeting Fun with Your Family

Budgeting Fun
Make budgeting Fun with your family!

Setting spending limits and crunching numbers is not exactly a traditional recipe for family fun. But you can make budgeting fun by getting a little creative. Here is how:

Talk it through

Finances are a complicated subject. But it is important for your children to learn this very important skill early in life. In order to make budgeting fun for all, make it a game. Seat everyone at the table and talk about where the money goes.

Show them the money

Ideally, you should keep record of your finances in a tangible place. A specific folder in your computer or an organized excel sheet. But let’s be realistic, creating excel formulas is hardly fun for a child, let alone a fun activity for the family.

Our suggestion: Go old school!

Set out three containers, jars, banks or baskets. Mark one of the receptacles with the word save.  One with the wod spend and the final with the word share.

Use real money and coins to fill the containers each month so the whole family can see exactly how a budget works and where money needs to go. Folger recommends divvying up money according to set percentages. This is an especially beneficial method to help your tweens and teens balance their own allowances while earning real-life financial lessons.

Work toward family-fun goals

Budgets are designed to keep your present bills paid as well as plan for the future. If your family is only focusing on what they’re giving up or not getting, there’s no way your family budget will resemble anything but doom and gloom.

Instead, making budgeting fun by including goal that everyone can appreciate or look forward to using. Perhaps you can work toward a family-fun day at a local amusement park or even an extended getaway.

When planning for a vacation, Godfrey stresses the importance of involving everyone in the family on decisions from where to go and what to do to how money should be spent. A budget designed specifically for fun-in-the-sun or a first-time adventure is sure to keep your kids interested in your family’s financial planning.

Give back as a family

Teaching your kids to give back is an important, life-long lesson. Dedicating a portion of your finances will create a life lesson and a lot of fun memories.

With open communication and an eye on future fun, you and your family can make budgeting fun and support your financial goals.


3 Great Financial Skills for Young Adults

Great financial skills at a young age!

The real world is expensive, and if you are a young adult the lack financial aptitude will harm you later on in life. Being financially unaware will make you struggle not only fiscally, but emotionally as well. That’s why you need to acquire financial skills as you make your way through college, navigate your first job and learn to save for the years to come.

 College-bound

College is often the first time you will experience a real sense of freedom. Gone are the days of a traditional school schedule with parents and teachers standing over your shoulder to make sure you study, eat and complete your assignments.

College may also be the first time you are faced with managing your own money to cover bills, school expenses and inevitable loan payments. To help keep you from failing Personal Finance 101, we recommend establishing a budget.

Record income from sources such as part-time job, student loans, money from parents, grants, savings accounts and scholarships.

Then record expenses: things such as books, tuition, rent, clothes, entertainment, college fees, supplies, personal care items and transportation costs. By tracking the first two months of spending, you will earn an accurate baseline of necessary and unnecessary spending and where’s there’s room in the budget for saving.

 On the job

The thought of saving for retirement after securing the first job out of college may seem ludicrous.

After all, you still need to pay off college loans,  rent, car payments and insurance fees.

However, saving for the future as soon as possible and investing in employer-matching retirement programs with the max amount possible are smart financial moves, according to The Balance writer Miriam Caldwell.

Remember the budget you used in college?

Now is the time to update if for the real world. Tracking your income, expenses and spending is the only way to gain control of your finances. As you progress in your career, your financial health should become more robust.

Be sure to consistently evaluate and re-evaluate your budget, plans for the future and investment options.

Credit cards are convenient, and sometimes the only resource you have to get through stressful financial times. But, they come at a high price. Sinking into credit card debt happens quickly and before you know it, you’re over your head in fees and balances you can’t clear.

To help you stay afloat, forgo any dependence on plastic.

 In case of emergency

Life will throw you expensive curveballs, and without an emergency fund, your financial health will take on serious damage.

According to Investopedia writer Amy Fontinelle, any amount you can save each month in a money market account, certificate of deposit or online savings account will do wonders in establishing your financial safety net.

Be sure the account you choose earns high-interest rates, too.

By adopting smart money habits, like budgeting, you’ll create a lucrative and secure future.


Raise Capital for your startup!

4 Ways to Raise Capital for Your Business

Raise Capital for your startup!
Raising Business Capital is Important!

Very few people know how to raise capital for their business, especially if it is their first startup. Though a necessary part of the process, investing your own money may not be enough. How can you raise capital for your business, and where can you get it?

1. Create a solid plan

Your business won’t be successful without a solid plan in place. Without one, you won’t be able to secure capital to get on your feet.

“Every successful business transaction starts with a carefully developed plan,” Jeffrey Hayzlett writes in a September 2017 article for Entrepreneur.

Hayzlett says that a good plan should identify the problem your business is trying to solve. It highlights the unique features that make your service or product stand out. Use these to build a short pitch. You should identify future milestones and then estimate how much capital you will need to meet them.

Without a solid plan, potential investors won’t have any reason to believe they can trust you and your business with their funding.

2. Friends and family

Borrowing money from friends or family is one of the most common ways to raise capital for a new small business. However, many investors shy away from it. After all, the potential cost of failure isn’t just financial; it’s personal. The key is to present your pitch professionally and treat your friends and family like real investors. This will make things go more smoothly if you are turned down.

On the upside, that personal relationship can take you further than you could go with an unfamiliar investor.

3. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way for small businesses to raise capital money to get started. Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe let you solicit funds through online campaigns. In return for their money, donors receive services or products related to the project you are trying to launch. The value of which is based on the amount donated.

4.  Angel investors

Angel investors are individuals with deep pockets who will invest in your startup in exchange for a higher rate of return than traditional investors.

Companies like Google and Yahoo, received help from angel investors in their early stages. “The big advantage is that financing from angel investment is much less risky than debt financing,” Susan Ward writes in an October 2018 article for TheBalance’s Small Business. “And, most angel investors understand business and take a long-term view.” You can find angel investors on websites like New York Angel and Angel List.

These are some of the ways you can raise capital for your business. Others include credit card loans, personal business loans, SBA loans and microloans from nonprofits. Talk with a professional to explore all of your options.


7 Money Saving Tips You Must Know Before Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and before you get together and celebrate Valentine’s Day with your significant other, remember it is saving, not spending what helps you create a future as a couple.

If you struggle with saving, or want to save even more than you do already, here are seven strategies worth implementing.

30-day rule

According to The Simple Dollar contributor Trent Hamm, one of the simplest ways to avoid impulse purchases is to apply the 30-day rule. As it implies, this rule involves waiting a period of 30 days to decide on whether or not to make a purchase. Observing this rule each month is a great way to build a long-term habit of making delayed purchasing decisions.

Stick to your shopping lists

Whether you’re grocery shopping or clothes shopping, an easy way to avoid unplanned purchases is to make a list, as Hamm advises. Make sure to stick to the list and turn a blind eye to anything not on it.

As a result, this list will help you buy only the food and clothing you need, rather than splurging on junk food that you might not eat or trendy apparel that you might only wear a few times.

Have a night in

While having a night out with your partner or friends for Valentines or any occasion can be refreshing, it can be a pricey habit.

With that in mind, Hamm recommends limiting evening outings by opting for alternative entertainment and food at home. Try having a game or trivia night, or an appetizer potluck, with friends the next time you crave a get-together.

Pay down your debts

School loans and credit cards can have high interest rates that add up over time. Kimberly Palmer, contributor with U.S. News & World Report, advises to pay down your debts as soon as possible to maximize savings.

If you’re not sure where to start, begin with the loans or accounts that have the highest interest rates.

Take advantage of Money Market Accounts and Certificate of Deposits 

An excellent way to grow your long-term savings is opening a Money Market Account or a Certificate of Deposit. These accounts grow at a set rate without the risk of a crashing stock market.

If you own a business, this is the perfect way to save for your taxes. Money Market accounts are liquid, giving you more access to your money.

Use automatic deposits

Put modern banking methods to use by setting up automatic deposits into your savings account, each time you get a paycheck.

Per Former Balance writer Joshua Kennon, it’s an easy way to stay on track with your saving goals.

It’s also a good idea to have the savings account with a separate financial institution than your checking account, as Michele Lerner with Money Crashers recommends. That way, it’s a bit harder to access the funds for non-essential items, the next time you feel like making an impulse buy.

Make your own meals

Frequently eating out can take a toll on your savings. Palmer recommends cooking your own meals regularly, to reduce monthly food costs. She also suggests implementing budget-friendly dishes — like soup and pasta — into your meal plan, to save even more money.

By applying these seven tips, you’re well on your way to a more lucrative new year — and building healthier financial habits that will pay off in the years to come.


Business Loans

How to Choose The Right Business Loan

Choose the right Business Loan for you!
Better Business, Better Loans!

Sometimes, your company needs a hand getting by when the market changes or unexpected costs arise.

During this situations, a business needs a bigger boost to push it to a new operating leve. In both instances, short- and long-term business loans are helpful. Learn more about these two loan options and the best time to apply for one.

Short-term loan basics

As the name implies, short-term business loans don’t stay on the books for long.

According to Rosemary Peavler in an article for The Balance Small Business, these loans usually last less than a year, with some terms as short as 90 days.

These smaller loans are great for businesses that need to build up inventory for busy times.

For instance, a retail shop might apply for a short-term loan to buy Christmas inventory in the fall so they’re ready when the holiday season strikes.

A manufacturing business that needs to pay for supplies before production begins might also use a short-term loan to help them get moving and bring money in.

Long-term loan basics

While short-term loans are for quick infusions of cash, long-term loans are for much bigger projects. According to NerdWallet, these loans are best suited for a business making a major investment or expanding.

Long-term loans have more options, with some of them having terms up to 10 years.

While a business (and its owner, depending on its structure) needs to be in good order to qualify for either a short- or long-term loan, long-term loans are much harder to qualify for. The benefits of a longer loan period include lower interest rates and smaller monthly payments.

Which one to choose?

 

Choosing between short-term and long-term loans is fairly simple, as it depends on how quickly your business can pay back what you owe.

If the money from a loan is more of a bandage solution until you get more capital, a short-term loan is probably the right choice.

However, if your business needs a lot of cash to pay for something that might not produce income for a while, a long-term loan is a better option.

Another thing your business should consider when looking at short-term and long-term loans is which one you qualify for and how expensive it is to borrow that money.

If your business is NEW!

If you are a start-up businesses you may qualify for a short-term loan more easily than long-term loan. The funds might be enough to get you going, but the higher interest rates might make repayment harder than looking for other sources of cash.

If your business is long-standing

If your business qualifies for a loan with a longer term and is comfortable committing to payments spread over several years, the interest rate — or cost to borrow money — tends to be lower.

Choosing the right small-business loan is difficult, especially if an enterprise qualifies for different types. If there is any question about which term is best, consult your financial or business advisor.


Business Growth

4 Business Management Skills You Need to Remember

Business Growth
Grow your business!

Do you remember the time your business started making profit?
The time you realized all your hard work had finally paid off. We are here to remind you of this moment because  there are key business management skills you need to maintain and never forget as your business flourishes.

1. Learn to listen to expert advice

The thing about owning your business is that you learn a lot and it becomes more difficult to listen to experts. This “know-it-all” syndrome can severely deter you from achieving your long-term business goals. Listen to the experts because they can see your business from a neutral perspective. They can tell you when something is working and when something needs to improve. Surround yourself with experts you trust. They may not always tell you what you want to hear, but they will advise you on what is best.

2. Separate your business finances and your personal finances.
Managing your finances properly is essential to keep things running smoothly. Make sure you are budgeting separately, saving separately and spending adequately. Make sure, you have a “salary” for yourself and pay yourself first. A huge common mistake is to reinvest all your earnings into the business you are running. Although, that might be great for a short-term investment strategy, it does not account for your personal financial well-being. You have to anticipate you will not be running your business forever, for this reason you need to have your own personal savings.

3. Learn the tax deductions that apply to you
Make sure you have a “Tax” expert look over your business finances and make sure you are paying as little taxes as required to. Most small businesses qualify for a 20% “Pass-through deduction. The deduction is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose 2018 taxable incomes fall below $315,000 for joint returns and $157,500 for other taxpayers. Additionally, some business might be able to claim their vehicles. If this is you, get some information about how to get Free Gap Insurance  and take advantage of BSCU perks.

4. Stay Liquid and plan accordingly
Bad times happen to everyone, make sure you are prepared for them. Make sure you keep at least 6 months of liquid reserves at all times. Make sure you are also set with the proper protections and have a plan set up for emergency. Ask yourself the following; Do you have disability, health insurance and life insurance set up? If not, time to make adjustments.

We hope this helps!