Friday, January 03, 2014

A Personal Budget in 5 Easy Steps

According to a survey by the Ohio Credit Union League, 20% of Ohioans are unsure how to create a monthly budget. While some effort is necessary, garnering a better understanding of your cash flow is an important step to strengthening your family’s financial situation.

We suggest the following steps to establish a basic budget: 
Step One: Keep track of your income and expenses for a couple of months. You need an idea of what a “typical” month is like for you. For cash expenditures, keep receipts in an envelope you carry with you every day. Then go back to categorize and total the receipts at the end of the month.

Step Two: Lay out your budget. In the “expenses” part of your budget, you will be accounting for two major types of expenses: fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are set amounts you pay every month, such as rent, car payment, and utilities. Variable expenses include discretionary items, such as entertainment and clothing. Write down all the necessities so you know how much you have left for discretionary spending.

Step Three: Pay yourself each time you receive a paycheck. Payroll deduction or direct deposit can help you stick to the savings habit. No matter how modestly you begin, the important thing is to start saving and to include it in your budget. Even if you feel like you can’t save enough to make a difference, do it anyway! You’ll be establishing a savings habit that will be invaluable when you reach a point in your life when you have more to save.

Step Four: Evaluate your spending. You may need to trim expenses. Take a good look at where you spend money, and cut out unnecessary items. Even if you cannot eliminate any large expenses, you may be able to cut several small items. Every little bit helps. Try making yourself stick to a “waiting period” on purchases. If you see something you think you can’t live without, put it on hold instead of buying it on the spot. If you still have to have it after 24 hours, go back for it if you can really afford it.

Step Five: Don’t overlook big, once-a-year expenses. Holiday gifts and vacations can quickly turn into budget-killers if you do not plan. To help, divide what you spend on such items yearly by 12 and add this expense to your monthly budget. Also, budget a little each month to save for insurance premiums and car repairs if you want to avoid draining your savings account.

Remember: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t make your spending limits unreasonable. Leave some room for unplanned expenses.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Active participation is key to minimizing risk of account fraud

Target on Thursday announced that 40M credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a recent data breach. While not directly affected by this breach, Eaton Family Credit Union encourages its members to actively participate in efforts to minimize the risk of fraudulent activity on their accounts.

According to Target's news release, customers who swiped their cards at terminals in its U.S. stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 may have had their accounts exposed. The stolen data includes customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the three-digit security codes located on the backs of cards. 

The stolen information included Target store brand cards and major card brands such as Visa and MasterCard. 

Eaton Family Credit Union provides Visa-branded credit cards processed by Fidelity Information Services, (FIS), which acknowledged the breach in an announcement to its partners stating it does not provide services to Target, and therefore, is not part of this breach. 

Though FIS is not involved in the breach, it’s participating in the evaluation and identification of any fraud trends that may be attributed to this event. The company anticipates this process will take several weeks and has said it will provide additional alerts as information becomes available from the card networks.

In addition to the measures Target and FIS are undertaking currently, Eaton Family Credit Union encourages our members to vigilantly monitor their accounts and immediately report suspicious activity to the appropriate fraud services team of the account appearing to have been compromised. Members also are reminded they already have means available to them to minimize risk:

·    Watch for compromised card alerts or notices from us and heed the advice to ensure that appropriate action is taken to safeguard your account.

·    Use all the personal banking tools available to you. Visiting a branch and reviewing your monthly-printed statement is a start. Home and mobile banking allows instant and secure access, 24/7, to your accounts. 

·    Frequently review the transaction history of each account, especially credit cards. Sign up for our that provides real-time access to your Visa card issued by Eaton Family Credit Union.

·    Use an identity theft service to prevent, detect and resolve threats to your accounts. They are low-cost, web-based, easy to use and effective. Learn more here.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Your Credit Score Explained

We are compiling information regarding credit reports and credit scores.

Credit Report Errors from sponsored by National Credit Union Association NCUA covers how to deal with disputes on credit reports

  • How can I correct errors found in my credit report?
  • What happens next?
  • What if nothing is resolved?
  • What if I am still dissatisfied?

On Saturday, May 18, 2013, Sheryl Harris, The Plain Dealer, wrote an article, "More credit myths that can trip you up."
In the article she discusses the following myths and facts.
  • Myth: It's not important to order your credit report
    • Fact: credit reports contain errors.
  • Myth: If you co-sign a student or other loan, it doesn't affect your credit
    • Fact: payment information on co-signed loans can be reported.
  • Myth: Freezing a credit report locks all companies and debt collectors out
    • Fact: lenders can have access to credit reports.
  • Myth: Transferring balances can hide debt
    • Fact: total debt is important, not interest you pay.

Same Name Identity Problem - On Friday, May 17, 2013, Teresa Dixon Murry, The Plain Dealer, wrote about an ex-wife's bankruptcy and the concerns because the new wife's name is the same.
Ms. Murray suggests
  1. Keep maiden name as middle name.
  2. Contact credit bureaus by mail.
  3. Check credit reports before and after marriage.

60 Minutes segment from February 10, 2013 called "40 Million Mistakes: Is your credit report accurate?"

"A new study indicates as many as 40 million consumers have a mistake on their credit report and Steve Kroft finds it's hard to get them fixed." Also check out 60 Minutes Overtime to see the frustration of trying to fix your report.

#1 Takeaway: check your credit report at

On Monday, January 14, 2013, Debbie Dragon wrote, "How to fix errors on your credit report," in

Regarding disputes, "Write out the reason for disputing each mistake you circled on your report so the credit reporting bureaus can investigate and make corrections. Keep a copy of the dispute with your credit report in case you need to refer back to it."

On Thursday, October 25, 2012, Teresa Dixon Murray wrote "Westlake man has one of the highest credit scores in the entire country, 848 out of 850" in the The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

She writes, "He has a few simple rules:

  1. Never charge something without having something to show for it.
  2. Never spend money without knowing when you can repay it.
  3. Pay your bills on time."

On Friday, August 3, 2012, Teresa Dixon Murray's, Money Matters column in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, notes that, "Credit scores are confusing..."
  • She says that there are gaps between different credit scores because they're measured on different scales. Click here to read more.
Click here to take the Credit Score Quiz from Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions - take the quiz before you fill out a loan application!

More reasons to check your credit report - click here to read the four-part series from the Columbus Dispatch titled, "Credit scars." 

Click here to read details on the difference between Vantage and FICO from Teresa Dixon Murray, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, on March 9, need to scroll down for the second Q & A

  • She states, " I've never gotten a straight answer from Fair Isaac Corp. (architect of FICO scores) or the bureaus about why there are two or more types of scoring with different top scales. "
  • Also, click here to see a comparison between FICO and Vantage from Don Taylor at 

Click here to read "Don't Micromanage Your Credit Score" by Jennifer Waters of The Wall Street Journal from March 3, 2012.

  • Ms. Waters states, "A score is determined mainly by how promptly you pay your bills and what kind of debt you carry, though other factors also feed into it. "
  • Also in the article is, "Scores also vary because the three credit-reporting companies don't have the same information. 'Lenders don't report all the same things to all the [credit-reporting companies], which is why scores will vary,' says Beverly Harzog, a credit-card analyst with"
    • Eaton Family Credit Union reports to all three credit reporting agencies.

Click here to read "What happens to your credit score when a card gets closed?" by Theresa Dixon Murray of The Cleveland Plain Dealer from December 9, 2011.
  • Ms. Murray responds to the question: What happens when the card issuer closes out the card due to inactivity? How does that impact your score?
The definition of a FICO Score from Barry Paperno, Consumer Affairs Manager,
  • A FICO score is a three-digit number between 300 and 850 that summarizes a person's credit risk based on their credit report at a particular point in time.
  • The number tells a prospective lender how likely someone will pay on time, with higher scores indicating lower risk and with lower scores indicating higher risk.
  • What the score looks at on a credit report is how the person pays, how much he or she owes, how long they have credit, to what extent any new credit has been taken on and the different types of credit experience they've had.
  • Information the score doesn't look at on a credit report includes marital status, gender (and) race. It doesn't even look at the name or address, so the location has no bearing on it.
  • Another thing it doesn't look at that is commonly misunderstood: It does not look at income or assets or anything like that.
Also in this Yahoo! Finance article titled "FICO insider explains credit scores," by , from Tuesday August 30, 2011
  • Why do the scores differ by credit bureau?
  • How often scores change?
  • How to see your FICO score?
Click here to read, "FICO's 5 factors: The components of a FICO credit score" by Jeremy M. Simon, from
  1. Payment History
  2. Debit Amounts
  3. Length of Credit History
  4. New Credit
  5. Credit Mix
Thanks to our friend, Ondine Irving, for the heads up.