Summer time is road tripping time. But before you hit the road to see the country and make new memories, make sure you’re ready for the trip! Check, check, and double check your vehicle. Your vehicle is your lifeline on a road trip, so make sure it’s in tip-top shape
Summer time is road tripping time. But before you hit the road to see the country and make new memories, make sure you’re ready for the trip!
Check, check, and double check your vehicle. Your vehicle is your lifeline on a road trip, so make sure it’s in tip-top shape to get you back home safely. Have your mechanic perform a tune up, oil change and tire rotation if those services haven’t been done in a while. And make sure you have a spare tire (and that the spare tire isn’t deflated) as well as a car jack just in case you snag a flat on your trip.
Grab an old-school paper map. GPS is a wonderful thing, but there are still a few small spots throughout the country where GPS just stops working (we’re looking at you, Rocky Mountains). Or perhaps your phone battery is dying or dead. In situations like these, it’s helpful to have a paper map on hand to keep your road trip on the right track.
Load up your phone with entertainment. You are going to spend a lot—I repeat, A LOT—of time driving, possibly through long stretches of countryside with little variation and not much to keep your attention. That said, this is the perfect time to catch up on audio books and podcasts you may have been neglecting. And a road trip isn’t complete without a killer playlist to jam out to.
Roadside rescue services are your friend. Despite your best efforts, sometimes you can’t prevent an accident. It’s helpful to be a member of a roadside assistance service like AAA Roadside Assistance to help get you out of a bad situation, no matter where you’ve traveled.
Have a (loose) plan. For the Type A’s amongst us, writing up a meticulously detailed travel itinerary may be par for the course, and there are probably some Type B’s who would happily start driving in no particular direction and with no plan to speak of just to see where they’ll end up. For most of us, a happy medium between these two scenarios is best. You definitely should have a loose plan of where you want to travel and what dates and times you plan to get to certain destinations, but stay flexible enough to change plans on a whim if something comes up, for example an opportunity to see a show, an unexpected detour, an extra night camping under the stars, etc. That said, you should DEFINITELY plan your restroom stops! You will not regret it.
Take care of issues regarding your driver’s license, insurance, or any traffic citations. Had a birthday recently? If you haven’t checked it in a while, you may not have realized your driver’s license is expired and needs to be renewed. Also make sure you have at least two copies of your vehicle insurance, preferably one you carry with you and an extra one in the glove compartment of your vehicle. And if you have any pending speeding, parking, or other traffic citations, you’ll want to take care of those before you head out on a long trip.
Carry cash! It’s becoming less and less common for people to carry cash on them, but you may want to have some nearby for toll roads. You can also buy a toll road tag to pay all of your toll road fees online later. Cash is also handy to have nearby for any markets or gas stations you visit that may only accept cash payments.
Remember to pack an ice chest for snacks on the go. Like we mentioned before, you’re going to be doing a lot of driving. You might as well have healthy snacks and drinks within arm’s reach on the trip! You’ll cut down on the number of times you have to stop for food too. A quick stop to the local grocery store to pick up ice, fruit, water, etc. is all you need to stock up for the trip.
Are you raring to hit the road now? Just in case you’re in the market for a sleek new road tripping vehicle, new Generations auto loans are competitive, come with optional vehicle protection, and won’t require a payment for up to 90 days*. That’s right—you may not have to make a payment all summer vacation! Discover more or start your application today!
*Conditions do apply in order for an auto loan to receive the 90-day deferral option, and not all loans will qualify. Refinances of existing GFCU auto loans are not eligible for the 90-day first payment deferral.READ LESS
Completing your college degree is one of the best things you can do to increase your lifetime earnings. Regardless of which credential you recently received, you’ll want to be smart about how you spend those earnings, and that includes how you repay your student loans. If you received Federal Student
Completing your college degree is one of the best things you can do to increase your lifetime earnings. Regardless of which credential you recently received, you’ll want to be smart about how you spend those earnings, and that includes how you repay your student loans. If you received Federal Student Loans, you should have completed an Exit Interview that summarized your repayment responsibilities. It should have included information about your specific repayment options.
Like many graduates, you may have been so excited about your accomplishment that you’ve yet to review those materials from your loan servicer in detail. But, as you prepare to enter the repayment period, take the time to read that information and consider your options. Making a smart decision about a repayment plan now can save you money, even if it needs to be changed later.
Here’s how financially smart college graduates repay their loans.
Financially smart college graduates have their student loan servicer on speed dial.
Contact your college or university’s financial aid office or visit MyFederalStudentAid.com if you don’t have the contact details for your student loan servicer readily available. The servicer is the company you will communicate with regarding payments and other questions about your loans. Repayment options can vary by servicer, which it’s why you should review all documentation they mail to you. Also, visit their website for additional information.
Your loan servicer will be your first stop if you have a sudden dip in income or if you lose your job. Contact them if you ever have problems making payments. You might be able to defer, or temporarily cease payments, without damaging your credit. Remember that for most student loans, interest continues to accrue during deferment periods.
Financially smart college graduates select budget-friendly repayment plans.
Most loans have a standard repayment period of 10 years, but specific repayment plans and consolidation loan programs can extend your repayment term up to 30 years. Here are the most common Federal Student Loan repayment plans:
A Standard Repayment Plan sets fixed payments in an amount that would pay off the loan in 10 years.
The Graduated Repayment Plan might be ideal for borrowers who enter into fields with low starting salaries. Minimum monthly payment amounts start low but increase every two years. The monthly payment amount continues to rise to ensure the loan is repaid in full within 10 years.
The standard timeframe for student loan repayment is 10 years. An Extended Repayment Plan allows borrowers up to 25 years to repay the loan. Payments may start even lower under other plans but will increase to ensure the loan is paid in full by the end of the loan term.
Income-Driven Repayment plans consider changes in your household income and family size. Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR), Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE), Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan, and the Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR), are types of income-driven repayment plans. Each plan varies in the time given to repay the loan. Graduates must initially meet borrower and loan eligibility requirements in addition to submitting annual documentation to maintain program eligibility. The monthly repayment amount can range between 10 to 20 percent of your discretionary income.
Visit StudentAid.ed.gov for additional eligibility requirements and limitations for each repayment type. While the Standard Repayment Plan may be the default choice for many college graduates, take the time to review your budget and make your selection based on your current financial situation. Keep in mind that the longer it takes to repay your loans, the more you’ll pay in interest charges.
Financially smart college graduates take advantage of automatic payment options.
Some loan servicers offer borrower repayment incentives. These might include interest rate reductions for signing up for automatic payments or for making consecutive on-time payments. This ensures payments are made on time and saves you money over the life of the loan. Missing a payment can mean trouble for your credit which can affect your ability to qualify for a car loan and make it difficult to rent your ideal apartment or home. On-time bill payment affects your credit more than the other known credit scoring factors.
Generation FCU members who would like to set up automatic payments toward their student loans may do so through their Online Banking account. Not a member? Open a MyAdvantage checking account with us to ensure your student loan payments are made on time.READ LESS
Generally, the term “rollover IRA” refers to an IRA that you establish to receive funds from an employer retirement plan like a 401(k). A rollover IRA is also sometimes referred to as a “conduit IRA.” When you roll funds over from an employer plan to an IRA, your financial institution
Generally, the term “rollover IRA” refers to an IRA that you establish to receive funds from an employer retirement plan like a 401(k). A rollover IRA is also sometimes referred to as a “conduit IRA.”
When you roll funds over from an employer plan to an IRA, your financial institution may suggest that you use a rollover IRA to receive the funds. Of course, you can transfer those dollars to any other IRA you own at some future date, because there’s no legal requirement that you keep your plan distribution in a separate IRA. But even though separate IRAs are not legally required, there are at least two reasons to consider keeping your employer plan rollover separate from your contributory IRAs.
The first reason to maintain a separate rollover IRA deals with federal bankruptcy law. Your IRAs are protected from your creditors under federal law if you declare bankruptcy, but this protection is currently limited to $1.28 million for all your IRAs.1 The $1.28 million limit doesn’t apply, though, to amounts you roll over to an IRA from an employer plan, or any earnings on that rollover. These dollars are protected in full if you declare bankruptcy, just as they would have been in your employer’s plan. Obviously, it’s easier to track the amount rolled over, and any future earnings, if you keep those dollars separate from your contributory IRAs. So a rollover IRA may make sense if creditor protection is important to you.
The second reason to maintain a rollover IRA is that you might decide in the future that you want to roll your distribution back into a new employer’s plan. In the distant past, employer plans could accept rollovers only from rollover (conduit) IRAs – rollovers from contributory IRAs weren’t permitted. Now, however, employer plans can accept rollovers from both contributory IRAs and rollover IRAs.2 Despite this, employer plans aren’t required to accept rollovers, and they can limit the types of contributions they’ll accept. And while it’s becoming less common, some still accept rollovers only from rollover IRAs. So keep this in mind if you are contemplating a rollover back to an employer plan in the future.
1 SEP and SIMPLE IRAs have unlimited protection under federal bankruptcy law.
2 Nontaxable traditional IRA dollars can’t be rolled back into an employer plan.
Copyright 2006-2019 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.READ LESS
Congratulations to all of the graduates—high school or college—who will be walking the stage this spring! We’re wishing you all the best as you move on to the next stage of your life! As you’ll soon learn, money and financial habits are going to be major factors in just about
Congratulations to all of the graduates—high school or college—who will be walking the stage this spring! We’re wishing you all the best as you move on to the next stage of your life!
As you’ll soon learn, money and financial habits are going to be major factors in just about anything you choose to do. We asked our team members to share their best financial advice to recent graduates, high school or college. Here’s what they had to say:
Set up a budget. Doesn’t matter what method you use, but you need a way to keep track of how much money you have coming in, what’s going out, and what bills need to be paid (and when!). A budget is the foundation of a healthy bank account and keeps you accountable. People can easily find themselves needing loans and credit cards because they spent more money than they realized they actually had.
Courtney Gonzalez, Marketing Programs Manager
Take care of your credit and it will take care of you! It will follow you for the rest of your life. It’s become an even more important factor that many young or mature adults have a difficulty understanding. It can have a positive or negative impact; anywhere from getting a cell phone plan, an apartment, auto insurance and most importantly a career that you’ve worked so hard for. Establish some credit, but not too much. Once you do get a credit card/loan ensure that you make on-time payments each month. Work closely with experts in that field. Ask your local credit union associate on best ways to establish “good” credit. You can also ask your parents or a trusted family member. Establishing good credit is a fine line that you must learn to balance and that you must maintain throughout your life.
Christopher Rodriguez, Member Engagement Associate
This is what was preached to me growing up and what I repeated to my kids:
- If you don’t have the money (cash) on hand then don’t buy it…never use credit unless it’s an emergency!
- Do you “need” this item or is it something you just “want?”
- Always put away 15-20% of your paycheck in a savings account!
- Credit shows what your character is like…so be mindful to always take care of it because it could cost you a job, promotion, or in some cases a marriage.
Letty Gonzales, Vice President of Community Engagement
My financial advice to a new college graduate would be to take a really deep look into any student loans you may have taken out to get your education. Some students are more aware than others about the details of their student loans, depending on their level of financial independence. For a great majority of people, loans taken out for school are some of the first loans they’ve ever had, and things like interest rates, principal balances, and repayment options can be daunting to think about. Trust me on this one, if you don’t know all of your loan details, don’t wait too long to find out. Educating yourself about your student loans gives you the power to make informed decisions that will ultimately work best for your budget, and you may even be surprised what options are available to you for repayment.
Kristina Lockridge, Marketing Manager
Learn to set and achieve financial goals. It’s not enough to say, “I’d like to pay off my debt,” or “It would be great if I could save some money.” You need to create an action plan with benchmarks that will let you know you’re on track. For example, if your big goal is to save six months’ worth of income, a benchmark may be to save $20 this week. In other words, set your big goal, then break it down into smaller goals. Keep yourself accountable by automating payments or transfers to savings accounts when you can. Don’t even give yourself the chance to spend the money! And never lose sight of the big plan. Achieving financial goals can take a long time, and it’s probable that at some point, you’re going to want to spend the money that you should be putting toward your goal. Don’t falter! Remind yourself why you’re working so hard to achieve your goal and that the pay off will be worth it.
Sam Salazar, Content ManagerREAD LESS
This is a recurring scene throughout my adult life: while cooking a dish or mixing up a salad, I’ll wish that I could walk to my garden and snip a little bit of rosemary or basil, or grab a few fresh, ripe cherry tomatoes from the plant. I’ll lament the
This is a recurring scene throughout my adult life: while cooking a dish or mixing up a salad, I’ll wish that I could walk to my garden and snip a little bit of rosemary or basil, or grab a few fresh, ripe cherry tomatoes from the plant. I’ll lament the cost of organic greens, thinking that I could easily save money by growing dill weed and lettuces on my patio. Alas, it hasn’t happened that way for me, and it isn’t for lack of trying.
My personal gardening adventures started over 10 years ago, with modest results to date. My haul after a decade: a few heirloom tomatoes, a baby eggplant and some jalapeño peppers that showed up after a drought. However, I started my garden again this spring, with just as much hope as ever. This time, I’m taking past failures and turning them into gardening lessons. The vines are “weathering in,” flowers are blooming, fruit is starting to appear, and I haven’t spent a small fortune.
Here are my top recommendations on growing your own fruits and vegetables:
Know your reason.
Whether you have a back yard, patio, balcony or even a sunny window sill, there are many reasons to keep a home garden. Some of us love fresh herbs and veggies, while others seek to increase plant-based food consumption for health or environmental benefits. My family had the full-on backyard garden patch for many years, growing rows of tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and watermelons. My grandmothers had pecan, lemon and orange trees that were heavy with fruit each year. There’s nothing like the taste of a vine-ripened tomato or watermelon, and nothing like sharing a basket of fresh veggies with family. I will probably not re-create the garden of my childhood anytime soon, but my goal is to recreate parts of that experience for my own children. Whatever the reason, staying focused on the end goal can make the difference between success and throwing in the gloves.
Start with a plan.
There are three keys to planning, based upon my experience.
- Know your zone and your season. Unless you’re growing in a greenhouse or indoors, plan on growing according to the climate in your area. According to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones, San Antonio is in Zone 9. The long spring and summer mean that seeds or seedlings can go into the ground relatively early (see The Old Farmer’s Almanac Planting Calendar). You can also rotate the type of veggies you grow well into fall and winter.
- Know your plants. Tomatoes come in vine and bush varieties, but both types need plenty of space and at least eight hours of sunlight each day. Overcrowded roots and an abundance of leaves can create competition for resources. If plants are taking up energy on putting down roots, they’re less likely to use that energy on fruit. Tomatoes and watermelons can take more than 90 days to grow from seed to fruit-bearing plants. Don’t lose heart if your vines are leafy with lots of flowers, but no signs of fruit after a couple of months. Vine plants need to grow up, or fruit will be vulnerable to critters and potential moldiness. Place viney plants along a fence, or install a cage or trellis. Lettuces, spinach and other greens like cooler weather and not as many hours of direct sunlight, so don’t try to create the whole salad in one season. Look for a gardening blogger or Instagrammer who lives in your area, or look for a master gardener online, and feel free to ask questions, because gardeners usually like to share their knowledge.
- Know your budget. There are ways to garden with low and no budget. You can save cucumber and squash seeds, let them dry, and plant directly in the ground after the last freeze. (This has never worked for me, personally, but a friend with a green thumb seems to have success whenever she covers a slice of cucumber with a handful of dirt.) However, backyard soil can require a lot of improvement like fertilizer and aeration.
My garden this year is inspired by Mel Bartholomew’s “All New Square Foot Gardening” book. Bartholomew promotes planting a raised garden bed, typically measuring four feet wide by four feet long, and six inches high. To reduce tilling, fertilizing and weeding, he has perfected a soil combination (called Mel’s Mix) made up of one-third compost, one-third vermiculite, and one-third peat moss. The first year I tried this, I had fantastic results, until a drought and a swarm of white flies destroyed the plants right as they were flowering.
This year, I’m using a combination of the square foot garden for plants with a shorter growing season (cucumbers and squash), while using 10 gallon containers for the tomato plants I’ve grown from seed. I already own the containers and tomato cages, but I bought lumber ($13), weed liner ($12), seeds ($20), organic soil mix components ($40) and organic fertilizer ($12). My all-in price is $97. Is it worth it? How many veggies would that buy, and how long would they last? It’s too early to know whether I’ll get to stop buying produce by the end of the summer. I bought these items over two months, a few pieces at a time, to avoid a big budget hit. However, the time I spend in my garden, checking progress every day and learning new techniques, is well worth it to me.
Your garden, your way.
If you manage to start your summer garden by growing seeds indoors in February, that’s awesome. If your gardening begins when you come across the two-inch-high baby plants at the big box home improvement store, that is also awesome. Want to go full organic, or use available soil and home-made bug repellent or compost? Don’t care so much about vegetables but want to grow beautiful flowers to share? That is entirely up to you. Find out what’s in season, or what’s about to be in season, and start small. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the results you want right away. If you get zero results, research the problem and try again with your new-found knowledge.
I’m very encouraged by the positive results so far, and hope to share an update if I get photo-worthy vegetables. Until then, I hope that you’re encouraged to get out and grow, and create the garden that you envision.READ LESS