Free Financial Fitness Fair January 30, 2013 in Pembroke Pines

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Mark your calendar and plan to attend BrightStar Credit Union’s Free Financial Fitness Fair, Thursday, January 30, 5:30 p.m. Get on track for a healthier financial future. Free seminars, snacks and giveaways. Location: Walter C. Young Middle School (901 NW 129th Ave, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028).  Click the image for more information.

Toy Drive! We’re Collecting Toys at Our Branch Locations.

holiday-toy-drivelargerHelp Spread a Little Holiday Cheer! BrightStar Credit Union is holding our Annual Holiday Toy Drive. The toy drive is a great way for members and BrightStar employees to help make a difference. We have partnered with Family Central Inc. on this project.

We’ve placed a Toy Drive drop box in each BrightStar location for you to make toy donations. NEW unwrapped toys are needed for ages infancy to 17 years. Please click here to view a list of suggested items. The deadline to drop off toys at BrightStar is Monday, December 16, 2013. Gift cards and movie passes are also welcome.

Help spread the word about the Toy Drive so we can collect as many toys as possible for needy kids. Even small donations can go a long way. We are still collecting donations for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season, and thank you for your support.

Teaching Kids About Identity Theft

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Are you prepared to teach your kids about one of today’s biggest online threats?  Identity theft can happen alarmingly early and have an enormous impact on a child’s financial future.  Savvy thieves often target children precisely because they have no financial accounts or history – as a result, many victims and their families fail to detect the theft for years. But with your help, your child can play an active role in keeping herself safe.  Here’s how to share the information she needs.

What is identity theft?  Although the term gets used frequently in the media, even older children may not fully understand that identity theft occurs when one person uses another person’s name or private information to open a checking, credit card or other type of account. Explain that although this can seem abstract – it’s not the same as someone stealing your toys or your car – it has big consequences. 

Use jargon-free language to lay out some of the crime’s likely outcomes. If someone opens and misuses an account in your name, it can prevent you from getting the money you need to buy a car or house. Identity theft can make you look untrustworthy when you’re applying for college or for a job. If your identity thief commits other crimes, government records may even end up listing them under your name. Your identity, including information like your Social Security Number (SSN), is important property and needs to be kept secret for the same reasons that we lock our front doors.

Make sure your explanation is age-appropriate; young children may need reassurance that identity thieves aren’t a physical threat like burglars, whereas teenagers will be ready for more detailed information about how credit cards are issued and used. 

How do we prevent it?  Once your child understands what identity theft looks like, explain how it happens and how you can deal with it. Most warning signs of identity theft (including declined applications for government benefits, strange bills or collection calls and financial mail items like pre-approved credit cards addressed to a minor) will be more visible to you than to your daughter or son. Instead of detection, your conversations with your child should focus on prevention

For starters, explain the different kinds of personal information that identity thieves use (name, address, SSN, phone number and more) and the degree to which each should be confidential.  Information can be stolen both in person and online, so teach your child to be suspicious of entering personal details into unfamiliar websites and to opt out of writing his SSN on school forms whenever possible. Home addresses and phone numbers should never be disclosed on social media. This conversation also gives parents a chance to talk about other online dangers, such as stalking, bullying and social media over-sharing. 

Sadly, many thefts of children’s identities originate with relatives or family friends. As with other kinds of safety, your child should know that the rules about what information is and isn’t okay to share extends even to adults they know well. 

What steps will keep your child safe? Finally, talk your child through the concrete steps you will take together to ensure that her identity stays safe. Both of you should watch for the warning signs mentioned above. Inquire with your child’s school about its data protection policies and keep a close watch on how much information about your child is posted on school websites, including those hosted by extracurricular activities like sports teams. Simple, commonsense procedures are also helpful – for example, make sure you shred any forms or documents with your child’s information before discarding them.

Although you may be tempted to request a routine credit report on your child to check for thefts, doing so can actually make her more vulnerable by creating a report where none had previously existed (minors, whose financial actions are strictly limited by law, should have no recorded financial history). If you’ve spotted warning signs, request a report carefully using a written cover letter. Consider requesting such a report around the time your child turns sixteen to ensure that he or she is heading toward adulthood with a clean slate.  If the report turns up any problems, you’ll still have time to correct them before college costs arrive.  When you do so, include her in the process so that she’ll be ready to do it on her own next time and can feel confident and in control of her own financial situation.

Although identity theft is a threat, you and your child can prevent it with vigilance and some simple precautions.  By doing so together, you’ll keep her future bright.

Find out more about how you can protect yourself and your family at BrightStar Credit Union’s Security & Fraud Center: https://www.bscu.org/FraudCenter/index.htm

 

7 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Spending

Holiday shoppingThe average American intends to spend $421 on gifts this holiday season. That alone is a substantial amount, but that sum doesn’t even include food, travel and other common holiday expenses. If you throw in the price of a few plane tickets for good measure, you could find yourself deep in the hole by the time the holidays are over.

The holiday spirit often overpowers rational thinking, leading some to spend thousands before they know what hit them. However, you, the smart holiday shopper, will have a leg up on them. Consider these seven ways to keep your wallet padded this holiday season without becoming Scrooge!

1 – Create a Budget

Review how much you’ve spent during previous holiday seasons and remind yourself how long it took to pay off those holiday expenses. Decide whether that level of spending is financially acceptable this year. If not, make your budget a little tighter this time around.

Factor in items such as:

  • Cards
  • Decorations
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • Travel
  • Wrapping paper

If you typically purchase a Christmas tree, add that to the list too. The idea is to cover not just gifts, but everything related to the holiday you celebrate.

Having a budget on hand will help immensely when deciding whether or not to pay $100 for that cute little robotic dog. After all, if your gift budget is $300 and you have 14 other people on your list, the recipient will get five times her fair share of your gift money.

2 – Prioritize

If you typically purchase gifts for 50 people and want to radically cut your budget to $250 this year, consider dropping Kim from accounting, the mailman, your neighbor’s uncle and maybe even that distant cousin who you haven’t talked to all year. After all, your significant other, children, parents and others you cherish most should be your primary focus.

3 – Make a Shopping List

Retailers lay out their merchandise to maximize profits. Thus, if you walk in without a plan, you could easily be suckered into buying items you had no idea even existed.

Instead, know what you want to buy and stick with it. Get in, find your pre-planned merchandise, pay for it and leave.

4 – Be the Early Bird

To get the holiday worm – if you will – your best bet is to shop as early as possible. Not only will doing so give you the best chance at actually finding the best deal, but prices generally rise as holidays draw near.

Ideally, find bargains on your entire gift list on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

5 – Cash is King

Shoppers spend 12-18% more when using credit cards as opposed to cash. That’s because people feel the “pain” of spending money more with the latter. As such, carry only enough cash with you to purchase your target items and leave your cards at home.

For online purchases, consider using a debit card. It’s still plastic, but it limits you from spending more than you have.

6 – Don’t Sign up for Store Credit Cards

“Would you like to sign up for the XYZ card today? You’ll save 10 percent on your purchase.”

Chances are you’ll hear something like this at some point during your holiday shopping. While the offer may be tempting, it’s likely a bad deal. Such cards encourage you to spend more in the long run and usually have high interest rates.

Again, stick with cash.

7 – Remember what the Holidays are Really About

The holidays are about sharing positive moments with loved ones, not swimming in wrapping paper and pretending you like every trinket that will later wind up in storage. Consider toning the spending down a bit, and perhaps doing it as a family.

For instance, a family of four might urge the kids to skip buying socks for dad and agree that each child kid gets one big gift and two or three smaller ones versus a new bicycle, video game console and 12 new games. They could focus more on spending meaningful time together. An affordable family outing might be an attractive alternative to presents.

Conclusion

By creating a budget, prioritizing and sticking to a shopping list, you’ll clear the path for a financially responsible holiday season. Remember to shop as early as possible and pay with cash. Be sure to let the cashier know you’re not interested in the store credit card!

Finally, remember that the holidays aren’t all about gifts. They’re about spending time with loved ones. Keep that in mind and conserving your holiday spending should be a piece of holiday fruitcake.

Treat Yourself to a LOW Interest HOLIDAY LOAN

Holiday loan 2Need extra cash this Holiday Season?  Your Credit Union can help with a low-cost Holiday Loan.  Borrow up to $5000 for as low as 7.99% APR from BrightStar Credit Union.

So go ahead, buy those holiday gifts, go on that special trip or do anything else to brighten up your holiday! Holiday Loans are available now through December 31st 2013.

Conditions apply; please see website for more details https://www.bscu.org/loans/holidayloan2013.html

BrightStar Credit Union Chairperson Dr. Dorothy Orr Receives Lifetime Achievement Award!

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BrightStar Credit Union would like to congratulate Dr. Dorothy J. Orr! Dr. Orr, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of BrightStar, has received the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broward Education Foundation (BEF). BEF, the nonprofit organization that supports public schools in Broward County, has announced the selection of seven Hall of Fame Distinguished Alumni inductees for the program’s inaugural year. These successful graduates of Broward County Public Schools were honored on October 23 2013.

Dr. OrrDr. Orr, who retired after 30 years with the Broward County Public Schools, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. A former school board member and interim superintendent. Dr. Orr’s distinguished career began when she served as assistant principal of Coconut Creek Elementary School in the early 1970s. Throughout the years, she served in such roles as elementary school principal, associate superintendent, deputy superintendent and interim superintendent, winning numerous professional and community awards along the way, including the JM Family African American Achievement Award in 2012. Looking back on her long career, Dr. Orr says her greatest contribution has been to people facing challenges. “I have attempted to remain a positive role model for persons who came from single-parent homes and who have had to overcome adversity,” she said.

Congratulations Dr. Orr, your BrightStar family is very proud of you!

Getting Your Teen a Checking Account: 4 Things to Know

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As your teen transitions into adulthood, they’re experiencing many firsts, including a first job and a first paycheck. This is the perfect time for them to start managing their own financial products too. Even if they’re not 18 yet, they can still open their first checking account with your co-signature. A checking account is a crucial stepping-stone on your teen’s journey to full financial independence. Let them practice now, while still under your watchful eye, and they’ll have a clear advantage over their peers when they leave for college or start their first full-time job. Here are four strategies to help your teen use their account to the fullest.

1. Wait until your teen is ready

You know all too well that your teen is unique. Accordingly, not all teens are ready to handle a bank account at the same time. When deciding whether or not you should open one together, focus on your teen’s level of maturity and previous experiences handling cash, rather than their age or year in school. Some teens can handle a bank account at 14, while others may need an extra year or two. Either way, they’ll have plenty of time to practice money management before they move out, so don’t feel the need to rush things.

2. Let your teen manage everything (with your guidance)

Even though you’ll be a joint account holder until your teen turns 18, let them take the lead on managing their money. They should be the ones checking their balance, making ATM withdrawals and using the debit card to make purchases. This is the only way they’ll get better at it. Continue to talk with them about budgeting and responsibility. Let them know you’ll always be available if they have questions. You’ll ultimately have the final say as to how your teen manages the account, but they should still feel like they’re in control of their money.

3. Talk about fees with your teen (so they can avoid them)

The best teen checking accounts are free, meaning your teen should not have to pay any minimum balance requirements or monthly fees. Fortunately, BrightStar Credit Union’s checking account is free, no matter how old you are. However, there may be other fees your teen needs to worry about. Your teen may be charged a fee for an overdraft or using an out-of-network ATM. Go through all the checking account’s boring documents, including the fee schedule, together. Don’t hesitate to ask a BrightStar representative for help if you don’t understand something, or just need clarification.

4. Online banking is the best thing ever

Before computers and smartphones were invented, balancing your checkbook and reviewing your monthly statements were essential skills for anyone with a checking account. They’re still important, of course, but online banking has made them easier than ever. Your tech-savvy teen can easily manage their account right from their computer or smartphone, which will help them stay on budget. BrightStar has mobile apps for your phone and free online banking. Make sure you talk about online safety first, though. Banking online can be dangerous in public places, and you don’t want your teen to become a victim of identity theft.

For more money management tips for your teen please visit http://www.BrightStarU.com

Laura Edgar is a senior writer for NerdWallet, a consumer finance website that helps you with planning your financial future.

Wonder where all of your money goes?

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For one week, record all of your expenses no matter how small. At the end of the week, you’ll have a clear idea of where those extra dollars could be hiding. In the future, you can use the funds you currently fritter away to increase savings, pay off bills, or buy something special. Use this Money Management Planner to help you get started https://www.balancepro.net/pdf/MMP.pdf.