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Bellwether's Blog on life and money

Continuing Education - is it for me?

Posted in Main Blog
May 29, 2015 by Trish R.
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woman working on computer“Woohoo! More school work!” said almost no one ever. Sure, there are people who love school and continue taking courses throughout their life. I am not one of those people. As I crossed the stage and received my undergraduate degree, I was certain I would never be taking another college course ever again. Or so I thought. After being settled in my job for a few years, I overheard a co-worker talking about the paper she had to write last night for the online course she was taking and it got me thinking. She has 3 kids, works full-time, and still has time to take classes? How can this be? After looking into it some more, I realized a few things: (1) taking a few courses directly related to my job will benefit me and my company, (2) many course are offered online, increasing flexibility, and (3) many companies offer tuition reimbursement. So I could get smarter, possibly make more money, and not have to pay anything to do it? Alright, let’s do this!

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Find the Best Accounts for Kids and Teens

Posted in Main Blog
May 26, 2015 by BCCU
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Oh the difference a few years make, especially in children. A 9-year-old and a 14-year-old may only be 5 years apart, but the gap is much greater when it comes to wants and needs. And there’s also a difference in what each needs for a bank account.

kids saving club characters




Dollar Bill and the gang help kids in the Save it Today! Kids Club learn about money.




Kids Club Savings Account

For younger kids, it’s important to learn about saving those babysitting, lawn mowing, or birthday dollars in order to achieve short-term and long-term goals. Those might involve the purchase of a small or large item, such as a game or a bicycle.

When kids open a “Save It Today!” Kids Club Savings Account, they get a special dividend rate on their savings up to $500, which means they’re earning money on their money. They also get a birthday card from our club mascots, and access to a terrific money management learning page here.

Student Silver Checking Account

Older kids have different savings needs. They may have regularly occurring expenses such as a cell phone bill or a fitness club membership. They likely have more regular income from a part-time job, as well. When there is more cash moving from income and expenses, a checking account helps manage that. For our youth members aged 16 to 22, the Student Silver Checking account (#myCASH) is perfect for managing day-to-day purchases and income.

Since this group might also be saving towards college, they can still use their Kids Club savings account to meet that goal. It has the highest interest rate of all of our savings accounts (check it out here!) When they turn 18, the Kids Club savings account would automatically be transitioned into a regular savings account.

Savings for college? See how your dollars can add up with our savings calculator!

We Can Help!

If you have any questions about the best checking and savings accounts for our youngest members, call us at 603-645-8181.

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Hosting Family Gatherings & Summer Cookouts

Posted in Main Blog
May 22, 2015 by Jenn R.
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One of my favorite parts about the warm weather months is hosting family gatherings and cookouts with friends. Summer presents several holidays and weekends for some real fun. Outlined below are some tips to prepare you for your next family gathering or cookout.

Remember to invite your guests with enough notice to RSVP. This helps to prepare for the number of people you will be hosting.

Clean Ahead of Time

When you’re hosting guests, no one likes a messy house! Clean any areas you will be using to entertain (let the other areas take a lazy day off).

  • Return clutter to its proper place
  • Wash down surfaces (especially in the kitchen & bathrooms)
  • Vacuum or mop floors
  • Mow the lawn and trim the weeds (treat for mosquitos and other pests at least a few hours in advance, if necessary.)
  • Clean the pool

Forbes has outlined “8 Stress Busting Tips for Hosting Small Gatherings”. These include some great quick clean up tips, and some advice for planning your meal. They also provide small, budget-friendly ways to add decoration to your party.

Purchase the Food in Advance

If you’re hosting your gathering for a special holiday or weekend, chances are the grocery stores will be busy. Make a grocery list so you do not forget anything. Set a budget so you don’t overspend on the things you don’t need or that will go to waste.

Forbes recommends considering your guests and what their dietary needs are. If any guests are vegetarians, offer a vegetarian option. If possible, I like to visit a local farm stand to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Be mindful of guests with food allergies as well.

When hosting your party outside, be sure to buy drinks that can easily be stored in a cooler. Don’t forget to buy plenty of ice to keep things cool in the heat. Consider setting out appetizers and finger food for guests to enjoy before the entrée is finished. Remember, they may also need to be kept chilled or out of the sun.

If you’re having trouble deciding the menu for your party, check out the Food Network’s “Grilling Central” to see “Cookout Sides and Salads”. Test the grill a few days before and check to make certain you have enough gas (or charcoal) necessary to cook with. If not, add that to your list!

Plan Activities to Entertain

Conversation is great, but it’s nice to have something to keep your guests busy at the party. Lawn games are fun for all ages, and can keep your guests entertained for hours. When I host an outdoor party my favorites include:

  • Corn Hole
  • Basketball
  • Bocce Ball
  • Swimming

Depending on the size of your yard, or the activities you have at home this list may be different for you. provides an entire list of outdoor games and activities including horseshoes, volleyball, a treasure hunt, and more.

Of course, remember to have a backup plan in case rain is in the forecast. Tents are a great way to stay dry, while still hosting your guests outside as planned. Once you host a few family gatherings you’ll establish a routine. With graduation season in full swing and The 4th of July right around the corner, you'll be a pro at hosting in no time!


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Grad Finances Part 2 - Buying Your First Home

Posted in Main Blog
May 14, 2015 by BCCU
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You're working in your dream career. Are you ready for the next big step of home ownership? Try our calculator here and read this article for our 5-point first-time home ownership check list.



Do you have that urge? That feeling that you want to settle into a permanent home, sip coffee from your own porch, mow your own lawn, and add some new family traditions to old ones? It may be time to consider buying your first home!

But how do you know you're really ready for a mortgage? According to a 2013 MSN Real Estate article*, there are some questions you can ask yourself to help you determine if you're ready to take on a mortgage and a new home.

Your 5-point check list to home ownership

  1. Budget—If you've set yourself a budget and have been following it successfully, you could be ready to buy your first home. Knowing the money you have, and how it's being spent, will help you determine if you can take on a mortgage and manage the additional costs that come with home ownership. If you don't have a budget, start one and stick to it for at least six months.
  2. Down Payment—Usually a first-home buyer will need a 20% down payment. There are options to get around that (zero down, or low-down loans) but those options can come with a price—such as having to pay extra for private mortgage insurance, or paying a higher mortgage rate. The Smart Money Mortgage is a youth-related that may be the perfect fit for your needs. Contact our Mortgage Team to learn more.
  3. Income—Lenders want to know you can make your regular mortgage payments, so a reliable source of income is vital. The longer track record you have with a single employer, the better—two years is ideal, but one year is a great start.
  4. Credit Report—According to the MSN Real Estate article, "You don't have to have perfect credit to become a homeowner, but a decent history can help you get a lower interest rate on your mortgage and a lower monthly payment." The government allows you to check your credit report once per year for free. You can get more information at Once you have your report, your Bellwether representative can give you advice on how to improve your score if needed. Strengthening your credit score during the year before you apply for your mortgage will help you secure that first mortgage.
  5. Debt—Make sure you have your debt—all the money you owe, including sums on credit cards—under control and budgeted for. Your lender will look at this total debt-to-income ratio—how much you owe compared to how much you earn each month. Your total housing costs should take up no more than 42% of your monthly gross income, but can be increased to 45% with FNMA (Federal National Mortgage Association) approval.

Are you ready for your first mortgage?

Even if you don't have all of the above items checked off, you should still come in to speak with a Bellwether representative. We can help you prepare a plan to make your mortgage application as strong as possible, and even give you an idea of the home price range within which you can shop.

Contact Bellwether if you're ready to follow your urge to first-home home ownership! Call us at 1-866-996-9828 for information.

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Marriage & Money: What To Talk About Before You Send the Wedding Invitations

Posted in Main Blog
May 08, 2015 by BCCU
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Why you should talk about personal finances as a couple long before the wedding invitations go out. Image from

Wedding invitations, bridesmaid dresses, serving chicken or salmon (or both)…so many decisions are being made in the months leading up to your wedding, and yet many couples leave one of the most important discussions for weeks or months after their wedding. That is the discussion of how to handle their personal finances as a married couple.

Men and Women Are Different

It’s no surprise that men and women are different in many things, and money is definitely one of them. Because you’re forming a life-long partnership, sharing your feelings around money and its management is vital to the ongoing success of your relationship. That means being up front about financial tasks you’re comfortable with, and tasks that fall outside your comfort zone.

5 Key Ingredients For a (Financially) Stable Marriage

Financial author Dave Ramsey offers some specific steps on preparing financially for marriage.† Here are 5 discussion points that will help the two of you sort through and prioritize your feelings around money, its management, and your long-term financial goals as a couple and eventually a family.

1. Transparency - Both of you should be up front about your current situation and put everything on the table:

  • income
  • expenses
  • debt (large and small)
  • bankruptcies
  • student loans
  • savings
  • collections
  • credit card issues
  • credit scores

It’s great to share what your parents and others have taught you about finances, and discuss the similarities and differences you have with your partner. Getting on the same page philosophically lays a foundation of trust.

2. Merging - In his article, Dave Ramsey points out “When you get married, combining your money into joint accounts is a crucial step. You are becoming one…Working together from a shared account brings honesty, unity and a sense that ‘we’re in this together!’”

3. Budgeting - Next it’s time to take all this information and put it on paper to help you determine what a typical month will look like. Review the budget every month to see what’s working, what isn’t, and to make adjustments.

Try out our helpful budget calculator. It will help you nail down your month-to-month expenses as a new couple. Image from

4) Planning - Once you have all of the details in your budget written down, it’s time to make a plan. Your plan should consist of creating an emergency fund, paying off debt, setting aside 3–6 months of expenses in savings (an expansion of your emergency fund), retirement investment, home repayment, and building a plan for giving back. These are steps you plan for, but accomplish one-by-one. Start off with planning on saving $1,000 for your emergency fund, and move through each step until you reach your plan for giving back. You can read more about these steps here.

5) Relating - This is listed last, but this should be a constant in all your conversations about finances—it refers to relating to each other. This article might focus on talking about money, but your relationship is what always comes first. Don’t let your talks about money stress you out—it’s about your loved one and your relationship. Your marriage is first, money is second.

Did you know…there’s an account for that!

We help new couples like you find the right solution—from auto and home refinance to checking and savings accounts—to help you achieve your financial goals and strategies. Contact us at 603-645-8181 to speak with us about budgeting, planning and other steps to get you started on the best path to a solid financial future.

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