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 Live your best life! 

Tips and information to help you be financially successful.

Strategies To Pay Off Student Loans Fast

Although everyone deserves a good education, most people don’t have the means to pay for it. That’s why they usually get a student loan to afford to enroll in a good college and pursue their studies. However, it could be a challenge to pay off student loans while managing your living expenses and saving for the future.

Student Loan Application and calculator

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your expenses, here are a few tips you can follow to pay off your student loans faster and ease some burden off your shoulders:

Make Extra Payments the Right Way

One of the best ways to cut your total payoff time is to make larger payments. This will reduce the principal balance, shorten your loan period, and minimize the interest you have to pay. You can also make additional payments at any point in a month or every two weeks rather than waiting for the due date.

Just don’t forget to advise your service provider to apply the overpayments to your principal balance. Otherwise, you’re just advancing the due date and not paying off your loan faster.

Refinance if You Have Good Credit

If paying off student loans quickly seems impossible, you might be paying too much interest. To avoid this, consider refinancing multiple loans and replacing them with a single private loan with a lower interest rate. You can speed up the repayment by choosing a loan period that’s less than the remaining time of your current loans.

Opting for a shorter term will help you pay the debt quicker and save money on interest. However, it can increase your monthly payment.

Get a Part-Time Job While Attending College

One way to make sure you can get a head start on paying your loan is to have income. While attending college, try applying for a part-time job, so you can use your earnings to reduce your balance. However, you have to consider if you can properly manage your studies while working.

Follow a Budget

Being disciplined with your finances can help you pay off your student loan faster. If you understand your monthly cash flow and plan your expenses accordingly, you can prevent delays in reducing your principal balance. Make sure you’re diligent about sticking to a budget throughout your entire repayment period.

Stick to the Standard Repayment Plan

Although making additional payments is one of the best ways to shorten your loan period, some people cannot do it because of their financial situation. If you’re in a similar predicament, the fastest way to pay off your student loan is to follow the standard repayment plan.

Check for Interest Discounts

You’ll find that many people are struggling to pay off their student loans because of high-interest rates. Fortunately, some lenders can offer 0.25% to 0.5% discounts if you sign up for automatic payments on your loan. Other service providers may also offer discounts if you meet a certain number of on-time payments or if you apply for another loan with their company.

Get the Money You Need for School

If you need help paying for college, turn to 1st Community Credit Union in Wisconsin. Whether you’re an undergraduate, a graduate student, or a parent, we can assist you in getting the money you need for school with the help of Sallie Mae® higher education loans. When you choose our credit union, you can look forward to competitive interest rates, multiple repayment options, and no origination fees. Contact us today.

Should I Refinance My Mortgage?

A mortgage is a way to purchase a home without having to pay cash up-front. You are also given a set amount of time to pay back the loan with interest. Until then, you don’t fully own your home. Meanwhile, refinancing a mortgage is a whole different thing. It is the act of rolling over your current mortgage into a new home loan.

keychain "refinance your mortgage"

The benefits of a mortgage refinance vary from borrower to borrower, but it usually serves the purpose of shortening the mortgage’s term or lowering the payment. After assessing factors such as credit, tax, and return history, the mortgage lender presents you with several options to lower your monthly dues. That alone should already convince you to refinance your mortgage. Here are more key reasons:


To Secure a Lower Interest Rate

Technically, refinancing is a good idea because it can reduce your interest rate. While lenders would often say 2% is ideal, 1% can also make a big difference. This serves a dual purpose: it helps you save money and lessen the size of your monthly payment.


To Shorten the Loan’s Term

Once interest rates fall, homeowners have the opportunity to refinance an existing loan with another one. While the change in the monthly payment isn’t evident, you can have a significantly shorter term, which means you can settle your payments earlier.

To Prevent Monthly Payments From Increasing

If you currently have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), it’s possible to refinance to a fixed rate loan to lock in your rate for the rest of the mortgage. This means you don’t have to worry about sudden spikes in monthly payments during your term.

To Borrow Money in a Cost-Efficient Way

Mortgage interest rates tend to be lesser in scale compared to other types of loans. They’re also tax deductible, which makes them one of the practical options for borrowing money. For example, cash-out refinance allows you to borrow against your home equity to obtain funds for any purpose. You’ll get a check at closing with the amount added to the mortgage principal you owe.

To Get a Better Mortgage Rate

This is perhaps the most common reason why people consider refinancing. One thing to remember is that mortgage rates are never the same between borrowers. It depends on the lender and can either be fixed or fluctuating with a benchmark interest rate. Mortgage rates also depend on the credit profile of borrowers.

Mortgage rates have the tendency to rise and fall and can affect the homebuyer’s market. If the rates have fallen significantly since taking the loan, it’s possible to save money by refinancing your mortgage into a new home loan at the current rates.

Get Credit at a Fair and Reasonable Rate From Experts Who Care

If you’re looking for friendly and personalized credit services, then consider joining our credit union. It’ll be the best financial decision you’ll ever make. Contact 1st Community Credit Union for more information. 

Auto Loans: How Much Car Can You Afford?

Planning to buy a new car or a used car is a big decision as it affects your monthly budget and financial situation.  Purchasing a car might be one of your major financial commitments, needing you to figure out how it fits within your budget and whether it is affordable.   Your budget dictates the price tag to the vehicle you can afford and not necessarily the car you want. 

To illustrate, you want to buy a vehicle that costs $40,000/- but your income can only afford a car worth $25,000.  Therefore, the car you want is not within your reach, thus, forcing you to reconsider your planned purchase.  Non-payment of auto loan leads to your financier repossessing your vehicle. How can you calculate the amount you can afford to purchase your car?

man holding car keys next to car

1.  Calculate Your Monthly Net Income

Financial advisers typically advise you to spend less than 10% to 15% of your monthly take-home income on your car loan payment.  That means that your first step is to calculate your monthly net income against your monthly expenses.  Doing so will help you determine how much extra income you can dedicate towards auto loan repayments and transport costs.  Transport costs include fuel expenses, car service maintenance and repairs, and car insurance. 

So, if your monthly net income is $4,000, plan to spend $400 on your car payment. 

2.  Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score contributes to determining your annual percentage rate (APR) payment on the auto loan.  The higher your score, the less you pay for loan interests.  Keep in mind that the interest rates for pre-owned vehicles are higher than interest rates for new cars.   Be realistic about the length of time you wish to pay off your auto loan. 

According to CNET, buyers in America negotiated to repay their car loans over long periods to make cheaper monthly payments. In March 2020, auto loan repayment periods were approximately 72 to 80 months of financing for new vehicles. 

Negotiating for a longer-term repayment schedule reduces your monthly payments.  However, the final amount of interest paid for your car increases.

3.  Establish your Target Price

Once you have determined the amount of auto loan you can afford, set your target price for purchasing a vehicle.  It is essential to factor in 10% for the sales taxes and fees.  For example, your target price for buying a car is $ 25,000.  At the dealer's, you see a car with the advertised price tag of $25,000.  Calculate the cost of the vehicle to include an additional 10% to the advertised price to get the total purchasing price of $27,500, which stands above the price you can afford.  Therefore, target a car whose price is approximately $22,500.

4.  Make a Down Payment from Your Surplus Income

Make a down payment on your auto loan as it reduces the length of time to pay off the loan.  You can use a trade-in as a down payment if you paid off your old car or you have equity. 


For more financial advice for auto loans, contact 1st Community Credit Union or give us a call at 888-706-1228.

5 Ways to Get Out of Debt
Eliminating your debt gives you more choices and allows you to take back control of your finances. However, getting out of debt is usually much easier said than done. It takes discipline and attention to detail, but it can be done if you create and follow a plan. Below are just a few ways you can start your journey to becoming debt free.

distressed woman holding credit cards

  1. Track your spending. If you don't know where your money is going, it's difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate excess spending and put that money towards paying off your debt. Take a good look at your spending by logging every dollar you spend for a couple of weeks. Then, take a good look at your log and see where you can make some positive changes. When you've identified those areas, make a monthly budget and vow to stick to it. 
  2. Stop spending on credit. It may seem obvious, but you'll have a difficult time getting out of debt if you don't keep adding to the total. If you have little self control, you may want to cut up your cards or hide them in the freezer (where you can't use them until they thaw). It's not a good idea, however, to close your accounts as that can have a negative effect on your credit score. 
  3. Eliminate excess spending. Most households spend money on things they don't really use. This could be subscriptions to online publications or streaming services that you rarely, if ever, use. According to a recent study by Waterstone Management Group, the average American household spends $237.33 a month on subscription services, including things like Netflix, Amazon Prime, a New York Time digital subscription or weekly food or beauty box. While these services can be convenient, they are usually charged automatically to your debit or credit account and can become a big draw on your finances over time if you aren't using all the services you pay for. 
  4. Use the snowball method. Another popular method of paying off your debt is to use the "snowball" method. To do this, you pay the minimum payment on all of your debts except one, usually the one with the lowest balance. On that one, you pay at least double the minimum payment required. When you've paid off that bill, you move on to the next lowest, etc. 
  5. Renegotiate your credit terms. Armed with your new budget and debt reduction plan, you may be able to renegotiate the terms of your existing debt. Banks and other lenders are generally willing to work with debtors to help them be able to pay back what they owe. This may lead to a lower interest rate, a reduction in the total debt or a longer period of time in which to pay the loan off.

1st Community Credit Union wants to help you manage your money more responsibly. We've been helping Wisconsin residents with their financial needs for more than 60 years.

The Benefits of Online and Mobile Banking

For years, banking was the same. Deposit checks at your nearest financial institution’s branch. Withdraw cash from an ATM. Receive bills in the mail and send them a check for the amount you owe. But the Internet has changed all that. Managing your finances  has become so much easier, now that you can do it online or on a mobile device. 

hands working on a laptop computer

  • Online Bill Paying - Rather than receiving a bill in the mail, sending a check back, and hoping it gets there on time, an online bill paying portal through your credit union lets you pay each of your bills instantly, at the touch of a button. Enter in the amount you owe, and hit, “Pay,” and the money is automatically sent from your account to the institution you owe. For certain bills that are the same every month, you can even set it to deduct the money automatically.

  • Money Transfers - Maybe you have two accounts, and need to move money from one to the other. Maybe you have a client who needs to pay you, or a vendor you need to pay. Maybe you just want to send money to a friend. With regular banking, you had to write a check and wait for it to clear. Now, you can do an online transfer, either directly through your financial institution, or through a secure third-party service connected to your account, such as PayPal or Venmo.

  • Deposits - Most employers now offer direct deposit, where your money is sent to your account automatically each pay period. But even when you do get a paper check, you don’t have to go to the credit union and wait in line to deposit it. Just take a photo of the front and the back through your mobile banking app, and the money goes in your account automatically.

  • Freedom and Flexibility - Most credit unions today offer both an online option as well as physical branches you can visit. This provides the freedom of managing your accounts any time, from anywhere, with the option to choose whether or not you want face-to-face assistance at a branch location. Want to add a secondary savings account to put money aside for something special? Open a secondary account online from home on the financial institution’s website. Sunday is the only day you have time to apply for a loan?  Apply online from the comfort of your home.

  • Going Paperless - How much mail do you get from your bank? Monthly statements, notices of important goings on, special offers, etc. All that paper just clutters your home, or gets thrown away. With online banking, you can choose to receive all of these communications through email, or through an online portal on the bank’s website, rather than receiving paper mail. Not only does this make everything a lot easier to organize and keep track of, you can lower your carbon footprint significantly by reducing the amount of paper produced, printed, and sent to you. The energy used to access your email is much less than it is to send mail by post—an important consideration as we continue the fight against climate change.

These are just a few of the benefits that online banking and mobile banking can provide you. It’s easier, it’s more convenient, it saves you money, and it’s better for both you and the environment. What more could you ask for? Contact the team at 1st Community Credit Union today to learn more about how online banking can benefit you - 888-706-1228.


 Warning Signs of Identity Theft

Identity theft is a persistent problem and, unfortunately, cybercriminals show no signs of letting up. Statistically speaking, identity theft affects approximately 1 in 20 Americans every year. In 2019, 13 million U.S. consumers suffered identity fraud.

It’s important to be vigilant because the sooner identity theft is detected, the less damage ID thieves can do. The following list includes warning signs you may be a victim of identity theft or financial fraud.


Unusual Withdrawals from Bank Accounts

Anytime you see an unusual withdrawal from any of your bank accounts you or a joint account holder didn’t make, this is a huge red flag. While a bank may make the occasional (very rare) error, chances are better a thief is pilfering your account.

Credit Standing Takes a Plunge

If you’ve maintained good credit and it takes a sudden plunge, consider this to be a warning sign. Once a thief gets a hold of your personal information, they can then open credit accounts in your name and go on a spending spree without paying the bill. If you check your credit report and find unfamiliar accounts or charges, this is a clear sign your identity has been compromised. Gone unchecked, within a few months, you’ll most likely find debt collectors begin to call you about debts you don’t recognize.

Small Charges on Your Credit Card

Any small and unusual credit card charge should be viewed with suspicion. Identity thieves will often test the proverbial waters by making very small charges with your credit card to see if it’s detected. If they sense a green light, they’ll then go for the gusto and start making large purchases, often maxing credit limits out.

Bills and Other Mail Go Missing

If regularly scheduled mail stops arriving, this could mean someone has stolen your identity. What thieves often do is steal their victim’s mail and then change the mailing address to be rerouted to them. Once they do this, they begin to collect other key pieces of your personal information to gain the information necessary to open new accounts in your name. Alternatively, if you start to receive strange bills, this is also a red flag.

Problems with Medical Providers and Health Plans

If you begin to receive bills for medical services you didn’t seek, this is another warning sign. It means there is a possibility someone used your identity information when they sought treatment. Additionally, if your health insurance plan starts to reject your legitimate medical claims this should be addressed ASAP. This is especially true if claims are rejected because your medical records show a condition you don’t have or your benefits have been maxed out, it could signal someone has been using your health insurance for their own purposes.

IRS Says You Already Filed

If you file your annual tax return and the IRS notifies you one has already been filed in your name and SSN, this is a key indicator someone is using your identity information to get a refund. Additionally, if they say you have income from an employer you never worked for, this is another red flag and should be investigated immediately.

Identity theft is an ongoing issue we all face. For financial advice and to learn more about how to protect yourself and your accounts from cybercriminals, give the team at 1st Community Credit Union a call at 888-706-1228.

welcome mat saying "our first home"


Financial Tips for First Time Home Buyers

April 2021


For a lot of people, buying a house is the ultimate dream that they hope will come true someday. After all, it’s nice to have a whole place for ourselves.

However, the reality of buying a house is the fact that it’s exorbitantly expensive. In fact, the real estate company Zillow has currently reported that the median home listing price this 2021 is $272,446, and that figure is expected to rise by 11.4% in 2022.

As a result, even though 80% of millennials would love to purchase their own houses, only a few of them are actually able to afford the costs, according to the data from Apartment List.

Despite the daunting statistics, your dream of buying real estate is achievable if you are financially savvy. To aid you in this matter, here are some words of financial advice for you.
  • Be Realistic When You’re Looking at Houses
    When you’re looking through the possible houses you might buy, you need to be realistic before getting attached to a gorgeous house that you can’t afford.
    This means that you need to check your income and calculate the possible costs to determine what price range of houses you can handle. You can continue your research on houses once you know your price range.
  • Continue to Pay Off Debt
    As mentioned earlier, owning a house is really expensive, and if you’re not careful enough, you’ll be drowning in a lot of debt. It is important to continue to pay off your debt as you can afford it, while also being able to make your mortgage payments on time.
  • Save for Down Payment and Closing Costs
    After paying off all your debt, the next thing you have to do is to save for down payment. Some home loan options require a down payment of 20% or more so that you don’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance, which is an added expense for your monthly mortgage payment. Luckily there are also options for Zero-Down, 3% Down and 5% Down Payments available to qualified borrowers. Consult a 1st CCU Mortgage Loan Expert to find out which mortgage loan option is best for you and your budget.  Aside from the down payment, you should also save some money for closing costs. Usually, it costs about 3–4% of the purchase price to close on a house, and these costs pay for the next crucial steps in the home buying process, such as appraisal, credit report, and home inspection.
  • Get Pre-Qualified for a Loan
    Once you’ve already saved up for the closing costs and the 20% down payment, the next step you have to take is to talk to a mortgage lender and get pre-approved for a loan.
    Getting pre-approved for a loan and getting a pre-approval letter will show home sellers that you’re serious, and that can get you ahead in the competitive real estate market.

Buying a house doesn’t come cheap. As a result, you need to be financially prepared first, and the tips above can help you achieve that particular goal. For further advice and information on buying your first home, give the team at 1st Community Credit Union a call at 888-706-1228.

jar of coins with label that says SAVE

Long Term Savings: How to Save for the Future

March 2021

It’s hard to think about saving for the future with expenses due today, coupled with shopping for non-essentials or spending money on other things, such as eating out or going on vacation. While those things are important too, it’s also a smart strategy to think about saving for the future to be able to enjoy life and still meet day-to-day expenses many years from now.

Also, important to consider is that life doesn’t always go as we plan. Job losses, cut hours, injuries, the car goes kaput, major appliance breaks, or an event, such as a pandemic, occurs. Strategically planning for the future with the money we have now is one of the best investments we can make.

Create a Budget

The first order of business is to create a budget. Sit down and make a list of all current income and expenses. Then list fluctuating expenses. Once you see your cash flow situation, it’s easier to take a realistic and honest look at your financial health. This is a true test of the ability to learn the difference between want and need. Once you do that, you can cut out any non-essentials being spent. Designate anything cut from the budget and divert it to savings or investments.

Build an Emergency Fund

Setting an emergency fund is one of the earlier steps to take when planning for our financial futures. This fund, which should only be touched in the event of a true financial need, will safeguard against dipping into any savings designated for the future. Ideally, saving for three to six months expenses is a good-sized emergency fund.

Start Saving Early

Whatever our financial goals, it’s always best to start now. In life, it is inevitable something will always come up that requires us to spend money. The earlier we start saving, the less of a negative financial impact will be felt when the unexpected occurs.

Tackle High-Interest Debt

Debt has an awful tendency to snowball if we’re not on top of it. As you make a commitment to savings, also commit yourself to pay down high-interest debt. The quicker you can eliminate high-interest payments, the better position you’ll be in to meet your financial goals for the future.

Automate Savings

Every time you get paid, you should set aside a portion to go towards your savings. Whether the money is sent to a savings account, 401(k), IRA, CD, 529, or other investment, try to make it consistent. You’d be surprised to see how quickly savings for the future accumulate once you make a commitment. Talk to your local bank or credit union about options where you can have money directly deposited from your paycheck.

Start Saving Today

Many people wonder when the right time is to start saving for the future. Putting money aside is one of those tasks people always seem to fall into the mindset of, “I’ll start that tomorrow.” However, our answer to this question is always. The time to start saving is right now. The earlier you start, the more financially secure you’ll feel down the road. You’ll also be able to handle any unexpected expenses life throws at you. If none occur, then you can enjoy your financial stability and spend without worry.

For more financial advice and ways to save money, give the team at 1st Community Credit Union a call at 888-706-1228.

rider on a snowmobile

5 Things to Know about Recreational Loans
February 2021

If you have been dreaming about spending your days camping, boating, or snowmobiling, you may be a good candidate for a recreational loan. Recreational vehicles can be expensive, but a recreational loan gives you the ability to purchase the vehicle you want on payments. Below are five things you should know about recreational loans before you sign on the dotted line. 

  1. Recreational loans aren't just for RVs. 

Even though recreational loans are often called RV loans, they can be used to finance many different types of vehicles. In addition to campers and motor homes, you can also use these loans to finance boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, scooters, personal watercraft and more. 

  1. You can finance up to 100 percent of the cost of your recreational vehicle. 

Most loans require you to pay a down payment at closing. However, when taking out a recreational loan, you can get funding for your entire purchase. This means you won't have to worry about saving up for a down payment before you can purchase your new vehicle. 

  1. You can refinance existing recreational loans. 

If you want to get better terms on an existing recreational loan, or if you want to give yourself more time to pay for your recreational vehicle, you can apply to refinance. At 1st Community Credit Union, we can help you refinance virtually any recreational loan. 

  1. Terms of up to 10 years are available. 

Unlike a standard auto loan, which is often capped at five or six years, recreational loan terms of up to 10 years are available on some loans (subject to restrictions). This gives you more time to pay the full balance of your purchase and lowers your monthly payment amount. 

  1. You can get a preapproval. 

It can be difficult to determine how much you can afford to spend on a recreational vehicle. With a preapproval, however, you will know the upper limit of your price range, making it much easier for you to find the perfect vehicle to purchase. In addition, a preapproval will speed up the process of closing the deal after you have found the vehicle you want to buy. 

1st Community Credit Union is proud to offer recreational loans to clients purchasing any type of recreational vehicle, from snowmobiles to campers. Loan terms of up to ten years are available, depending on the specifics of your purchase. In addition, if you are a qualified borrower, we can finance up to 100 percent of your recreational vehicle's purchase price, so no down payment is required. 

Are you ready to start shopping for the perfect recreational vehicle? 1st Community Credit Union offers free preapprovals. Please contact us today to get started or to learn more about our loans.

Free Trial Offer?  More like FEE trial offer!
It's natural for our ears to perk up with we hear about a sensational new product, and even more so when they are offering a Free Trial. 

Many consumers are eager to take advantage of a free product trial offer but unfortunately they wind up falling victim to fees. The "Free Trial" trick deceives consumers daily by hiding the specifics within the teeny tiny fine print, which can result in enormous shipping fee charges, making it nearly impossible to cancel the trial, or a hopeless pit of unexpected spending. Whether it's a secret subscription or a furtive fee, these free trials do not always end up being as "free" as you originally hoped, liked or anticipated.

Be smart about these "special" offers and follow these tips before you take the plunge:
  • Research The Company.  By doing a little investigating, you'll be able to see how credible the company really is. Read some reviews. Hear what others have to say. This will allow you to know if you're hitting a home-run success or a strike-out scam.
  • Read The Terms And Conditions.  This is a common mistake made by many prior to purchase. Hidden in the depth of legal jargon and mumbo-jumbo lies the root to your problems. Make sure you do not just sign off or give away your information before reading the fine print.
  • Beware Of Pre-Checked Boxes.  Companies will sometimes "help" you by checking boxes automatically. This grants them permission to sign you up for other programs or products - even if you do not want them or do not know about them. So when you see a box, make sure it's not checked unless it's something you chose or want.
  • Mark Your Calendar.  By being proactive and knowing when your free trial subscription ends, you'll be able to cancel the offer before it rolls into the unwanted and unfortunate not-so-free year-long commitment.
  • Know How To Cancel Your Subscription.  Although this may sound elementary, it is a very important fact to know. Whether it's a limited time frame for cancellation or just a convoluted conundrum, make sure you know exactly how to end the trial.
  • Read Your Credit And Debit Card Statements.  Frequently check your statements to know if there is a strange charge on your accounts. If you see something strange, call the company to hash out the situation. If that doesn't work, call your card issuer and dispute the charge.
Make sure you're not flooded with secret bills and unwanted trial continuations. Be smart and be aware of the logistics behind every free trial you subscribe to because, before you know it, that free trial won't be so free anymore.