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We all know life can throw us some curve balls now and then. Therefore, planning for different life events is essential. At United Heritage, we’ll help you prepare for and handle some of life’s biggest challenges and celebrate the accomplishments.

We can help you prepare for life's milestones...

Beginning Your Career

Entering into the job market is an exciting time. Now that you’ve landed your first “real” job and steady paychecks are coming in, it’s time to learn how to effectively manage your money. More than likely you are facing a new set of financial responsibilities – taxes, insurance payments and student loans. Understanding these new responsibilities will put you on the road to financial success.

Get to know and understand your expenses.

For many people new to the job market, this is the first time you’re responsible for your own bills: rent, utilities, phone, etc. Effective money management requires a complete understanding of each of your bills – monthly averages, when they’re due, etc. Add up your total monthly bills and see how that stacks up against your paycheck.

Start a monthly and yearly budget.

Once you’ve totaled your monthly expenses and subtracted them from your monthly income, you’re ready to make a budget. You may find you’re spending more than you make each month. If this is the case, you’ll need to determine what adjustments can be made (i.e. what spending habits can be changed) so you’re not skewing negative. On the other hand, you may find that you have a surplus of cash once all of your bills are paid. If so, the best thing you can do is allocate at least 10 percent to savings. Use auto transfer to have the funds moved into your savings account automatically.

Understand your new tax responsibilities.

Now part of the American work force, it’s your responsibility to pay taxes to the government. If you’ve worked before, you’re probably used to seeing deductions from your paycheck. If this is a new adventure for you, prepare yourself by knowing and understanding your tax deductions.

Stop spending. Start saving.

Once your paychecks come rolling in and your checking account blooms, you may feel the urge to spend all of your money. The longer you work, the sooner you’ll discover that the future is not always certain. By building up a safety net/emergency fund, you’ll be well prepared should an unforeseen event threaten your job security.

Buying a Car

Buying a car is an exciting time that’s often overwhelmed with a focus on the particulars: new car vs. used car, safety ratings and even color. Before getting carried away with the details, there are steps you can take to put yourself in the driver’s seat.

Determine your budget.

One of the most important first steps down the path to new car ownership is deciding on a budget. It’s important to be realistic here – buy only what you can afford. From this budget, you’re able to determine if you’re in the market for a new or used car, as well as the types of vehicles in your price range. Most advisors suggest your total monthly expenses (car payment, insurance, gas, etc.) not exceed 20 percent of your income.

Clean up your credit history.

If you’ve seen your credit score and know it won’t get you the financing options you’d like, take a step back and reassess. If your new car purchase can wait, consider working on improving your credit first. Low credit scores will result in much higher interest rates, causing the final price of your dream car to exceed the sticker price.

Shop for money before you start shopping for a car.

Getting pre-approved for your new (or new to you) car loan gives you added confidence as you shop for cars and negotiate a fair price, putting you at an advantage when you’re ready to buy. If you have questions or are ready to start the pre-approval process, speak to a UHCU loan specialist by calling 512.435.4444 or by applying online.

Know how to work the dealer.

Before you stroll into the dealership, do your homework. Show up with paperwork on market values, trade-in values and financing options.

Know exactly what you’re buying.

Be wary of dealer add-ons and up sales. Add-ons like service contracts and extended warranties can inflate the price of your vehicle. Check with United Heritage first; we often offer the same products as the dealership but at a much lower cost. And of course, make sure to read all the fine print before signing anything.

Buying a Home

Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your life. Because of this, it’s imperative that you understand what buying a home really means. Before you start touring neighborhoods and picking out tile patterns, there are some important things to think about and work on to ensure you are financially ready for the commitment of home ownership. 

Check your credit history.

As with any major purchase requiring financial assistance, it’s a good idea to take a look at your credit before shopping for a home or a mortgage. Review your credit reports and make sure all listed information is correct. If you spot mistakes, address them as quickly as possible. While you might not have time to rebuild your entire credit history, you can see what impacts your credit score and start a credit improvement plan.

Get pre-qualified.

United Heritage offers pre-qualifications so you can determine your borrowing power. Getting pre-qualified enables you to understand how much home you can afford and set a budget as you start your search for a new home. Having a pre-qualification puts you in a better position to make a serious offer when you find the home that’s right for you.

Determine your down payment.

If it’s financially feasible, try to make a 20% down payment. A 20% down payment will eliminate the need for mortgage insurance or a second lien on the home. The amount of your down payment could impact your mortgage loan rate. However, there are still plenty of options available if you do not have 20% to put down. Determining your down payment amount is an important step in preparing to buy a house. 

Use your pre-qualified purchase price to shop with confidence.

Enjoy house hunting knowing that the property you fall in love with is one you can afford. Once you have your pre-qualified purchase price, you can focus on your real estate wish list. Various factors come into play when shopping for a home, such as square footage, number of bedrooms, floor plan, outdoor area, kitchen, and much more. Make a list of the features you consider most important and keep these items in mind as you evaluate each home. You might need to be flexible as you start narrowing down your search, but a pre-qualification and planning ahead can help you stay on track.

Consider the future of your investment.

A house is more than a place for your family to live. Start thinking of your future home as an investment. In addition to the actual structure, be sure to consider the neighborhood, school system and property values. Pay attention to the amenities offered either within the community or in the areas close to the home - like nearby shopping centers, restaurants, activities for families and other conveniences. All of these things affect the overall value of your home.

Understand the current condition of the home.

Before your option period ends, hire a qualified home inspector. If you’re working with a realtor, he/she can coordinate the home inspection. Regardless of whether or not you're working with a realtor, a home inspection is always a good idea. Home inspectors will provide you with detailed information on the true condition of the home. This information helps you determine how much money you’ll need to put into repairs or upgrades should you decide to move forward with the purchase. It can also be used in negotiations with the seller - either to lower the purchase price or to ask them to complete certain repairs before moving forward.

Work with a United Heritage loan specialist.

Having United Heritage in your corner during the home-buying process is an asset. United Heritage loan specialists are armed with valuable knowledge and experience to answer any questions you may have along the way. Whether you're a first-time home buyer or a seasoned professional, a United Heritage loan specialist's goal is to make the process as quick and easy as possible. When you're ready, learn more about UHCU mortgage loans and start the home buying process.

Membership/Regular Savings account required. 
United Heritage loan policies and other qualifications apply.
NMLS #630601. 

Financial Tips for Newly Married Couples

Marrying your sweetheart is a joyous time filled with myriad happy new beginnings. However, with this happiness comes several real-life financial and legal obligations. There are many things to think about and discuss with your betrothed — from how you’ll share money to how you'd like to retire. Take the time to discuss these things early, and in depth, so that financial woes don't add unnecessary stress to your wedded bliss.

As a couple, identify your financial core values.

In addition to your life core values, it’s also important to discuss your financial core values with your partner. This should include addressing your spending habits, financial priorities, your concept of financial security and how you approach difficult financial decisions.

Decide whether or not to merge finances.

More than just the merging of your lives, marriage is a merging of assets. A key step in the process is to decide how you plan to share – or not share – money. Remember that all couples are different. What worked for your parents or best friend might not work for you. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s an agreement you both can uphold.

Don’t be afraid to talk about money.

Being open about money and finances with your partner is critical for a successful marriage. Financial discussions should be a natural and comfortable part of your married life. Check in with each other once a month to address any financial concerns you may have and remind each other of the financial goals you established as a couple.

Create a budget and stick to it.

As a newly married individual, you’re probably still used to spending your money as you see fit. For most married couples, a new financial approach is required. If you’re now benefiting from dual incomes, you might feel inclined to double your spending. The fact is, you should be spending less and saving more. Review your expenses, create a monthly budget that includes saving, and do your best to stick with it.

Reduce (or eliminate) your consumer debt.

For most of us, this means credit cards. If you entered into your marriage with credit cards and debt, do what you can to resolve those balances first. While it’s in your best credit interest to keep your oldest accounts open, consider closing the majority of your accounts to enhance your credit report.

Start saving now!

Whether you’re putting aside money for your emergency fund, a new home, a new baby or retirement, it’s critical to your financial stability to establish a safety net. When it comes to establishing a savings plan, the key is to start early and remain diligent. Automatic savings transfers can help with this process.

Create a will.

Once you’ve tied the knot, and especially once you’ve decided to start a family, a will is a must for every couple. Not only does a will let you dictate what happens to your assets and property should one of you die unexpectedly, it also enables you to specify a guardian for your current or future children.

Preparing for a Baby

Few things change your life as much as starting a family. Along with anticipation and joy, many couples encounter feelings of stress and anxiety over their new responsibilities and growing financial obligations. From medical bills to college funds, there is a lot to think about. Ensuring that you’re prepared and knowledgeable about what’s to come gives you the peace of mind you need to enjoy this new journey.

Review your health insurance.

Once you find out baby is on the way, prepare yourself for an onslaught of doctors appointments that will last for the next 18 years. Make sure your new family is protected with good insurance coverage. Price policies and discuss deductibles, flex spending and HSA accounts.

Talk to your employer.

In order to properly plan for baby, you have to know what’s on your financial horizon. Talk to your employer about what the company offers in terms of maternity leave and benefits. Will you receive paid or unpaid leave? Will you have job security? How long can you take off? Answers to these questions will help you plan and adjust your budget accordingly.

Build up your emergency fund.

Putting aside money for savings is always important. When you know you’re having a baby, it’s even more so. Reassess your finances and budget. Determine how much more you can put into your savings account each month. If it’s possible, try and double your savings contribution.

Carefully revise your family budget.

In addition to moving additional funds into your savings account each month, your budget will most likely require a full overhaul. Now is the time to cut back on unnecessary spending; take a look at where your money is going and adjust accordingly. Over the next several months you’ll be spending quite a lot more than you anticipated in preparation for a baby.

Update your will and life insurance.

If you haven’t done so already, create or update your will to include a guardian for your child(ren). Consider adding life insurance to your personal insurance portfolio.

Working vs. stay-at-home parent.

With the high cost of daycare these days, many moms and dads are now considering the possibility of staying home. Review your finances and find out what your monthly budget would look like with only one income. Should you decide to continue working, prepare a new budget and compare scenarios that include childcare and related expenses.

Think about taxes.

Review your taxes to see if you qualify for child and dependent care tax credit or an earned-income tax credit. Also, remember to adjust your tax withholding to reflect a dependent child. This gives you a larger paycheck to help pay for baby expenses.

Open a separate savings account.

For some couples, segmenting their savings works best – emergency fund, dream-house fund, baby fund. Consider opening a separate fund for your baby-to-be to help you more easily understand where you are in the savings process and how far you need to go.

Start a college fund.

Just like retirement, it’s never too early to start saving for your child’s educational future. With ever-inflating tuition and fees, putting money aside now is a smart investment.

Membership/Regular Savings account required. 

Saving for College

Saving for your child’s education is an important step for his/her future. With some smart financial maneuvers, you’ll be able to make your money grow, so that by the time high school graduation comes around, funds are available. As important as saving for college is, it’s critical to remember that you should not allocate your retirement savings for college expenses. Securing the funds for a college education is far easier than securing money to see you through retirement.

Start as soon as possible.

Saving now for college ensures that you have the most options available when the time comes. If you feel overwhelmed by such a large, looming expense, consider this: even modest investments can pack a punch. Whatever savings method you choose, it’s important to first do your homework. Consider your needs, objectives and personal financial situation before making your selection.

Savings Accounts:

The Coverdell Savings Account functions similarly to Roth IRAs but, instead of retirement, is instead used for educational expenses. With an annual contribution cap of $2,000, earnings within the account grow tax-free and can be used for any educational expense – not just college tuition.

Stocks:

With tuition costs rising faster than inflation, a portfolio of stocks is a smart way to build savings in the long term. As your child nears the end of high school, you can protect your returns by switching the funds into bonds and cash.

Mutual Funds:

Want to make college funds grow by investing? With a mutual fund, a professional is put in charge of your savings so that you don’t have to watch the market daily.

Texas Tomorrow Funds:

Chances are, you have plenty of time to save for your children’s’ or grandchildren’s’ education. After all, it could be 15 years or more until the money is needed. But have you factored in how much college will cost then? Tuition costs are skyrocketing, rising at a rate of approximately 6 percent a year. The truth is, time is on your side now. By getting a head start, you will be taking one of the most valuable steps to ensuring a good future for your child, grandchild or other loved one. For more information visit the Texas Tuition Promise Fund website.

Membership/Regular Savings account required. Programs (including without limit, fees, rates and features) are subject to change without notice. See rate sheets for applicable dividends. Fees may reduce earnings. Annual contributions cannot exceed $2,000. Consult tax advisor concerning maximum annual contributions and considerations for children with special needs to receive contributions after the child turns 18. Funds must be used for educational expenses and withdrawn before child reaches 30 years of age. 

Getting a Divorce

Deciding to end a marriage is a difficult time fraught with many emotions. The dissolution of a marriage is more than just the end of your marital partnership, it is most likely the end of your legal and financial partnership as well. Though one of the last things you want to think about is your finances, it’s something that can’t be ignored as divorce is a division of assets. If you’re facing divorce, make sure to prepare yourself and acquire the necessary information.

Before proceedings begin, make sure you’re financially ready.

Gather all your legal and financial documents and meet with a financial advisor or planner. Divorce disrupts many aspects of your life, but if you plan ahead, it doesn’t have to disrupt your financial security. Assess your individual debt and establish credit in your own name.

Separate your financial interests.

If you have joint accounts with your spouse, now is the time to discuss closing them. Any outstanding balances (like credit cards) should be paid. Still, a divorce decree doesn’t dissolve financial obligations such as joint debt, so ensure that all shared accounts and debts are handled properly. Insurance policies will also need to be reviewed and amended so that neither person is without proper coverage after the proceedings.

Begin your new financial life.

Once your divorce is final, there will be several details to get in order. These include: securing a copy of the divorce decree; updating names and addresses on critical documents; possibly changing your legal name; updating all employment and tax records. Though they may be tedious and frustrating, these details will get you on track, enabling you to adjust to your new way of life.

Income Changes

Going from two incomes to one, or a reduction in income of any kind, can be a definite shock to your finances. Don’t let this loss get the best of you. With proper reorganization and budget evaluation, you’ll be able to stay afloat until your circumstances improve.

Reorganize your banking situation.

When a job is lost, banking reorganization is often in order. Things like automatic debits, transfers and BillPay need to be adjusted. If you don’t already have a joint account, now might be a good time to consider this option.

Adjust your retirement situation.

While it’s always important to put money into your savings, during this time of depreciated income, it’s okay to scale back on your monthly contribution in order to meet your other financial obligations.

Reduce unnecessary expenses.

Like any time of financial strife, cutting down on unnecessary spending is a helpful step. Look at your monthly budget and expenses and see where money is being spent. Seriously cut back on things like dining out, shopping and entertainment. The budget might not always be so strict but, while finances are tight, it should be monitored closely.

Make a list of frugal things to do.

When someone loses a job they often find themselves spending more money out of sheer boredom. Don’t let this happen to you. Keep yourself occupied with free or inexpensive things to do.

Can you make major budgetary cuts?

While whittling away at the family budget helps, ridding the budget of a major expense, like a car payment, is even more helpful. But before making a bold move, first weigh your options. Realistically predict how long you’ll be out of a job and see if going down to one car would even make sense for your family. If there’s no work in the foreseeable future and one car would suffice, nixing a car payment could be a smart move. Also look at things like cable and Internet as other possible cuts.

Consider working from home.

If you have the time and ability, think about taking on some part-time or freelance work during your unemployed or underemployed period. The added income helps relieve your financial pressure while keeping you busy.

Loss of a Loved One

Few things in life are as difficult as losing a loved one. With such a loss, legal and financial concerns are often neglected, which can end up causing unnecessary grief to those who remain. During this time of sorrow, there are several practical things that need to be done by the executor of the estate.

Talk to an attorney and begin probate process.

As the executor of the estate, you should first consult an attorney. Even if you do not choose to hire a lawyer, advice from a qualified professional could save your loved one’s estate thousands of dollars. Obtain appropriate documents from the probate court, which will act as proof that you’re legally responsible for managing the affairs of the deceased.

Get your paperwork in order.

A crucial but difficult task is locating all of the necessary legal and financial documents. These include: Social Security information and employee benefits statements; military records; digital account passwords and logins, including those for social media; insurance policies; credit card and bank statements; mortgage statements; tax returns; and birth, marriage and death certificates. Depending on the extent of the deceased’s assets, 10–20 copies of the death certificate will be required.

Notify financial institutions and pay debts.

Review all of the claims and expenses against the estate – medical expenses, utility bills, credit card debt, etc. – and pay those that are valid. Notify necessary financial institutions and close accounts. Closing all accounts is very important, as the deceased can be targets of identity theft.

Apply for benefits due to survivors.

Insurance policies and financial contracts should be checked for insurance premiums. Cash benefits may be due to heirs. Be sure to ask a lot of questions to find out if survivors are due pension benefits or income from the deceased’s employer, union or the military.

Distribute assets.

After consulting with an attorney, it’s time to distribute assets to heirs and transfer property titles as specified in the will. Once all the debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets can be given to beneficiaries.

Preparing for Retirement

Because everyone’s idea of retirement is unique, it’s important to think about what will work best for you. How do you plan to spend your retirement years? Some people thrill at the thought of free days filled with golf and beachside living, while others can’t imagine leaving the workforce entirely. Whatever your ideal retirement is, you’ll want to do what you can to make your money work for you in the present, so that your financial future is secure.

Start saving and keep saving.

Establish a retirement savings program like a 401k through your employer or IRA. The sooner you begin your retirement savings, the more time your money has to grow. Review your budget and determine how much you’ll be able to put toward retirement savings each month. Stick to that number as long as you can. Ask your employer about your benefits.

Know your retirement needs.

Experts estimate that you’ll need roughly 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your standard of living throughout your retirement years. When determining how much money you’ll need to accrue, consider the various income contributors you’ll have: pension, Social Security and income from investments and annuities.

Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan.

If your employer offers a matching retirement savings plan, do your best to contribute. Try and contribute the maximum match amount so that you don’t lose “free” money.

Get to know your pension plan.

If you are expecting a pension from your employer or the military, take time to find out what that pension plan entails and how it works. Ask for an individual benefits statement to see how much your pension will be worth come retirement time.

Research your Social Security benefits.

On average, Social Security benefits equal 40 percent of your pre-retirement earnings. To better estimate your expected benefits, visit www.ssa.gov.

Consider basic investments.

In addition to contributing to your retirement savings account, also consider varying your portfolio with a few investments. How you save can be just as important as how much you save. Inflation and the types of investments you make play a key role in how much you’ll have saved by the time you’re ready to retire.

Don’t touch your retirement savings.

Life will give you reasons to want (or need) to break into your retirement coffers. As best as you can, try not to touch these funds. When saving for retirement it is critical to not let your retirement savings become your only method of saving. It is not to be confused with an emergency or rainy-day fund.

Later in Life

Whether it’s managing your retirement or caring for an aging loved-one, the financial challenges that come later in life can feel overwhelming. But with proper estate planning, they don’t have to be. By making sure your wishes are known and taken care of ahead of time, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your wishes and the needs of your family are met.

Communicate with your family.

Estate planning can be a difficult thing to discuss. Talking about your death and the dividing of assets can make your family members uncomfortable. Honest communication about your wishes is an important step in helping them prepare for the unexpected.

Draft a will and name an executor.

Your will dictates how your assets are distributed and can also designate legal guardians for dependents. If you don’t make this decision, the court will make it for you. You may wish to work with an attorney to ensure that you’ve covered all the important topics and nothing will be left to chance. You will also need to name an executor who will be responsible for overseeing the estate until all assets are distributed.

Solidify power of attorney and medical power of attorney.

Power of attorney enables another person to handle your finances and investments should you be unable. Whereas, medical power of attorney gives another person the power to speak on your behalf and make all medical decisions for you. However, both documents are void once you’re gone, making proper estate planning highly important.