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Bellwether's Blog on life and money

Is a 5/5 ARM right for you?

Posted in Main Blog
July 17, 2014 by BCCU
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What is an ARM?

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) is an important term, especially if you are in the market to buy a new home.

dog sitting on welcome mat

ARM Definition: a mortgage having an interest rate which is usually initially lower than that of a mortgage with a fixed rate, but is adjusted periodically.

Bellwether’s 5/5 ARM is unique because it is a variable rate mortgage with longer periods of stability. Most ARMs have an initial term, but then switch to adjusting every year. Bellwether's 5/5 ARM rate is set at the start and stays at that rate for the first 5 years, then adjusts every 5 years. Our 5/5 is more stable than a 3/1 or 5/1 ARM which adjust annually after the first period.

Understanding the Rate System

The most appealing feature to the 5/5 ARM is that the rate only fluctuates every 5 years. As with all ARM products there are limits, and the rates cannot continue to fluctuate past a certain point. These limits are called caps. At Bellwether Community Credit Union the 5/5 has 2/2/5 caps.

  1. Initial Adjustment Cap
  2. Periodic Adjustment Cap
  3. Lifetime Cap

The initial adjustment cap is the amount the rate can change up or down at the first adjustment period. With the 5/5 ARM this cap is 2%.

The periodic adjustment cap is the maximum the rate could change up or down in subsequent adjustment periods. With the 5/5 ARM this cap is every 5 years up to 2%.

The lifetime cap is the maximum percentage that the rate can change over the life of the loan. With the 5/5 ARM the maximum percentage is 5%.

Why Bellwether’s 5/5 ARM is perfect for you

Bankrate recently posted their “Top 10 Tips for Mortgage Borrowers in 2014” and an Adjustable Rate Mortgage landed on the list. The average family moves every 7 years. If you are one of these families, a 5/5 ARM would be a great option because your rate would only be subject to change once in that time frame and only by 2% maximum. This allows you to plan for that “worst case scenario.” ARMs are also perfect for:

  • First time home buyers
  • Families planning to relocate within the foreseeable future
  • Refinancing your ARM or Fixed Rate Mortgage

If you determine that a 5/5 ARM is right for you, check our current rates and find out more!

Sources:

Lending Tree

Realtor.com

Merriam-Webster

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Summer Activities on a budget in New Hampshire

Posted in Main Blog
July 15, 2014 by Amanda N.
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How to be cost efficient and still enjoy your summer

For most New Englanders, summer is a time to venture outside, enjoy the warm weather, and stay active before the snow comes back. Even on a budget, there are ways to make the most out of your summer without an elaborate vacation.

Check out this link to Visit NH and you’ll find that New Hampshire is a great state to explore because it offers coastline, mountains, arts and culture.

Venture to the White Mountains

If you enjoy the great outdoors, the White Mountains are the perfect spot for a summer getaway! State parks usually also have low admission fees. I'd suggest the following as activities in the White Mountains that won’t break your budget:woman with rucksack sitting in woods

  • Camping - A fun activity for the whole family. Check out this great list of campgrounds from the NH State Parks website. Most are near lakes so you can enjoy an afternoon of swimming or boating, and another plus, a number of campgrounds are also pet-friendly.
  • Hiking - The Granite State is full of trails and mountains available to the public. Check out this list from Hike-NH. You’ll have fun, and enjoy a good workout!
  • Sightseeing - Only have a day to travel? Discover everything New Hampshire has to offer by taking a scenic drive! Visit the National Scenic Byways Program to discover the most scenic routes! If you prefer to take a train ride, the White Mountains have several stations that offer both scenic rides and dinner trains.

Enjoy the Seacoast

If you enjoy the beach, visit the coastline in the southern part of the state. New Hampshire is home to 5 State Park beaches along the beautiful Northeast seacoast. The beach can be a free activity if you try the following tips to avoid added costs.

  • Street parking - Arrive early to find spots that don’t require feeding a meter or paying a lot fee.
  • Pack your own lunch - Bring a cooler, sandwiches, snacks, and drinks instead of paying high prices at a concession stand.
  • Bring your own gear - Pack your own sunscreen, towels, floats, and toys rather than buying them when you get there.

Discover Arts & Culture

Find live music events, museums, fairs, and community activities. These are all great places to bring the whole family without breaking the bank. Be as frugal as possible and look for:

  • Free child admission
  • Discount days
  • Group deals

Every little bit counts! Don’t miss out on all that NH offers.

Appreciate at Home Fun

Back yard barbeques are great for a friends-and-family get together. To create added entertainment and save money, US News outlines the following recommendations:

  • Shop for foods at your local farmers market
  • Create recipes for themed meals.
  • Take turns hosting

Remember, you don’t have to miss out on a fun, enjoyable summer just because you’re living on a budget. Use these tips and track your spending to have a fun, safe, and more affordable summer season!

Sources:

Visitnh.gov
Money.usnews.com
Nhstateparks.org 

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Who Said Scavenger Hunts Are Just For Kids?

Posted in Main Blog
July 10, 2014 by Jenn R.
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A few weeks ago I attended a local Young Professionals Scavenger Hunt – it was part race, part contest, part bar-crawl (minus the alcohol), but largely a ton of fun with my friends and meeting other people. The object was to complete all the tasks in the least amount of time, with a 5-hour time limit. There were approximately 12 teams, ranging from groups of 2 to 8 adventure-seeking professionals of all ages. Once our team checked in, we received our bibs (just like you’d get at a road race), a sealed manila envelope, and food tickets. After a brief overview of the rules and expectations, the clock started and we were on our way.

Planning our attack.adults climbing on sculpture

We immediately opened our envelope and discovered we had 12 “clues” related to locations around the town and a map of the city. The first 4 clues were actual photos of the specific locations that we needed to first, locate, then recreate the photo with all of our team members in it. We then had to submit these clues by email to get full credit. We skimmed thru the list to determine which clues we already knew and mark that clue number on the map. Once we had determined the majority, we were off and running.

Collecting the Goods.

As we reached each location there was either a photo to take or prize to obtain. Most of the clues were pretty challenging, and we learned the hard way that we needed to read the clues carefully. Specifically, one of the clues actually told us that a specific location didn’t open until 3pm, so when we arrived at 1pm we were greatly disappointed. We collected all the items: butterfly wings, princess crown, koozies & tent card, as well as took all the required photos, with some help from local people and other teams!

Crossing the Finish Line.

With about an hour to spare, we arrived at the final location, sadly, we weren’t the first ones. Maybe it was because no one on our team was actually from that city (we all live over an hour away) or when we submitted 2 incorrect photo clues. But we finished 3rd out of 12 teams and received special recognition for being the 1st team to complete one of the photo clues. We were rewarded with t-shirts, glassware and other fun prizes. Then, we got to enjoy some delicious food while we watched a slideshow of all the team photos that were submitted.

This event was a great way to get to know the city, get some exercise outside, and spend time with your friends. Are you looking for something fun to do around your town? Or maybe find a way to make some new friends? Look into your local Chamber of Commerce or Young Professionals Network; they are a great resource for local events.

Manchester Young Professionals
Nashua Young Professionals
List of all NH Young Professional Networks: Stay. Work. Play. 

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Why Business Networking is So Important

Posted in Main Blog
July 09, 2014 by Amanda N.
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Whether you are a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional, business networking is important for the growth of your career. Take the time to consider who you know and who they know. You’ll soon realize you have more connections than you thought you did. Why not take advantage of these relationships? Statistics show that 95% of people network for building relationships.

blue people figures connected by lines to central red figure

Fast Company outlines the following “3 Best Practices for Effective Business Networking.”

  1. Leave every event with at least one person to follow-up with
  2. Obligate time to build your social networks
  3. Concentrate on building 5-10 strong relationships

This advice sounds easy, but the thought of networking scares some people. If you are a person that is afraid of business networking, check out: 3 Ways to overcome your Networking Fears, from “The Fast Track.”

When an event comes up, use these tips from Entrepreneur, to increase your chances of meeting someone new:

Tip #1 Arrive Early

  • Arrive early. Start a discussion with people not already talking to someone else.
  • Ask what brought them to the event. It opens the floor for further discussion.

Tip #2 It’s not all about you

  • Smile to show other people that you are approachable.
  • Allow the conversation to flow naturally. Don’t force it by selling your product or service
  • Actively listen to what the other person has to say.
  • Once the opportunity presents itself, be able to express what you love so much about your company, product, or service.
  • Have business cards with you to easily exchange contact information.

Tip #3 Follow-Up

  • Follow-up in a timely manner, and reference something you discussed to remind the person of who you are. (This is where listening comes in.)
  • A simple email is fine, or sending the person an invitation to connect on LinkedIn works as well

Still think business networking isn’t important? The truth is business networking is beneficial for everyone. Even if you aren’t looking you may discover opportunities to grow within your field, opportunities to recommend someone you know, or opportunities for your employer as a whole; all things that are very important to a successful long term career.

Sources:
The Boston Globe
Business Network SW
The Fast Track

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Finding Success at Saving Money

Posted in Main Blog
July 02, 2014 by BCCU
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For some people saving money seems easy. For others, it's hard work. Our culture celebrates shopping, not saving for a rainy day. Still, saving is important and makes a very real difference in your financial future. Financial icon Dave Ramsey advocates accumulating a $1,000 emergency fund as the first step towards financial security.

Having trouble putting away as much money as you’d like? Try some tips I’ve learned to making saving easier.

Pay Yourself First

It's a common savings rule - “Pay Yourself First.” It means setting aside funds for your personal savings —before you pay your bills, shop for groceries or enjoy a night out. It’s hard to save money after bills and other expenses are paid. Savings needs to be a priority and paying yourself first makes sure it gets done.

Make it a Habit

Treat savings like any other “bill” to get into the "savings mindset." Put savings on autopilot by having your paycheck or a portion of it direct deposited, or set up an automatic transfer in Online banking each time you get paid. Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t see it, you won’t think about spending it.

Set a Goaldollar bills in coffee cup

Many of us do better when we have goals. Start by breaking your end goal into achievable, smaller goals, and then celebrate those smaller goals. For example, your ultimate goal may be saving $2,500. Go out for ice cream or treat yourself to that Venti specialty coffee from your favorite barista for every $250 you accumulate. Because those are the kinds of things you cut back on when you're trying to start a new savings habit. (Make certain your splurge doesn't use your hard won savings)!

Make it Painful to Touch It

Once you see savings accumulate, your old spending habits may come back. Something will break down, the kids will need money for a field trip, or you’ll see an amazing outfit on sale. Make it a challenge to get at your savings. Consider opening a separate account without debit or check access, or put your savings into a certificate with a penalty for early withdrawal. Find a way to put a “lock” on your savings until you've built the habit of not touching those funds for other than the intended plan. Some people even put all their credit cards into a container filled with water, and put it in the freezer. Gives you plenty of time to rethink that purchase while you're waiting for your cards to thaw!

Stop the Madness

The final component to successful savings is to change your spending habits. In the past, I saved money, but spent the same amount (or more) with plastic. Using plastic can be a tough habit to break. However, savings is a good habit to get into. Once your savings build, you’ll begin to view spending from that perspective: that jacket is a “weeks' worth of savings” or that trip is equal to “two months’ worth of savings.” It makes you think when you know how hard you worked to build that savings. Best of all, over time, you'll view savings in the same way you used to view spending, something to be happy about. Especially when those savings help you achieve other big goals.

For most of us, saving money doesn't come naturally. Just remember:

  • Don’t get discouraged
  • Don't give up

You too can be on the way to sound savings habits!

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