Financing Your Wedding: Options and Approaches

After the initial excitement of an engagement settles, daydreams begin about the ideal venue, food options and of course, what the dress will look like. Before getting too far down the planning path, the inevitable question arises: How will we pay for this? Weddings can be expensive. In 2021, couples spent on average $28,000 on their special day. This is a significant increase from the average cost of $19,000 in 2020 — attributed to the pandemic’s lessened restrictions and availability of vaccines and couples hosting smaller events for safety reasons.

No co-signer? No credit card? No problem.

Michigan credit union gives young adults a credit boost with auto loan program

Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero; EAFocus Communications; barbara@eafocus.com; 248.260.8466

Wyandotte, Mich. — July 27, 2022 —While the availability and affordability of cars is in flux, and higher gas prices are jolting budgets, Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) is making one thing easier: helping young adults hit the road this summer with their own set of wheels.  Following its initial limited-time offering in 2019, MLCU is again presenting members aged 25 and younger the opportunity to get a car loan without a co-signer and to obtain a VISA credit card at the same time.

“In our experience, car buyers do not want the hassle of a co-signer for their auto loan. With this Gen-Z focused program, we are empowering our younger members with financial responsibility and freedom while helping them develop financial literacy,” Carma Peters, MLCU President and CEO, said. “Qualifying for auto loans without a co-signer is really their first step to financial independence and wealth building; plus, it helps them understand how loan obligations work in building a good credit foundation.”

The auto loan is combined with an optional credit card offer because it can be difficult to have an expensive asset like a car without a credit card to support accompanying expenses. The promotion is subject to credit approval and standard terms and conditions apply. Qualified applicants must be a member of the credit union, but it’s simple to join. A one-time, $5 deposit to open an account is all it takes, and it can be done at one of MLCU’s five area branches or online with MLCU’s video teller.

Peters says the auto loan program also builds member loyalty.

“The first member to participate in this auto loan program in 2019 just purchased a home with a mortgage through Michigan Legacy. And unlike traditional banks, the credit union does not charge any fees to obtain the loan, so that’s a significant savings when calculating the interest.  It’s a win-win for the young adult member and the credit union,” Peters said.

Peters adds that the creative combination of a car loan and credit card is an example of how credit unions can uniquely help young adults with financial assistance and guidance.

“Credit unions are a great place for the Gen Z population because they have local decision-making authority and can offer personalized services and rates that take into account an individual’s unique situation. I think of it as working outside the automated process box,” Peters said.

About Michigan Legacy Credit Union

Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative serving members who live, work, worship, attend school, or own a business in the state of Michigan. Michigan Legacy Credit Union is committed to providing quality financial services at a competitive price, delivered professionally and efficiently while keeping member/owners and their needs first. For additional information on MLCU, visit: www.michiganlegacycu.org.

Despite increasing interest rates, mortgages still open doors; plus, reconsidering refinance “rule of thumb” and using home equity loans wisely

Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero; EAFocus Communications; barbara@eafocus.com; 248.260.8466

Wyandotte, Mich. — July 7, 2022 — The housing market has experienced record-breaking inventory shortages, rising interest rates – and an abundance of cash offers. But mortgages are still the ticket to homeownership for most people, according to Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) President and CEO Carma Peters.

“Cash offers have been wildly popular in the recent housing market frenzy, but it’s not unusual for cash offers to turn into a mortgage after the house has been sold. Sometimes the cash is a temporary gift of sorts from a parent or relative, with the understanding that the homeowner will ultimately take out a mortgage and repay the cash in full or in part,” Peters said.

And while mortgage rates continue to increase and have doubled from a year ago, there is still the opportunity to refinance.

“It’s amazing how many people we encounter who never refinanced their high interest rate mortgages of (7.00% – 8.125%), even with the record low rates we’ve seen in the past couple years,” Peters said. “While rates are higher now, they are still significantly lower than what some individuals are paying on their current mortgage. For those people, refinancing should be a priority.”

Peters notes that a general rule of thumb for refinancing is: if you can lower your rate by 1% and will be in your home for seven years, it’s worth pursuing. But re-fi considerations shouldn’t end there, she said.

“In some circumstances, lowering a mortgage rate by even half of a percent is advisable if the overall savings outweighs the closing costs in a period of seven years or less,” Peters said. “If you’re unsure if a refinance is right for your current mortgage, it never hurts to inquire to understand if you’re at a good refinancing point, or what the target rate is for you to refinance.”

Mortgages, which account for approximately 25% of MLCU’s business, not only allow for the purchase of a home, they can be helpful down the road for tapping into home equity. As both inflation and gas prices reach record highs, the equity in one’s home can also be used to pay off higher interest rate debts, such as credit cards or student loans, or otherwise gain access to affordable cash during a tenuous economy.

“With a home equity loan, people can borrow money based on how much equity they have in their home,” Peters explained. “So, if you’ve paid off $75,000 of your mortgage, you may be able to leverage that equity to get a loan for $25,000 or more, for example. It’s important, however, that the home equity loan be used to either make improvements that will add value to the home or to pay down debts that will put the borrower in a more favorable financial position. Never borrow money to pay off debt it there is not a net positive in doing so.”

Peters adds that the unpredictability of the past few years serves as a good reminder to individuals on the importance of making smart financial decisions, as they can have long-term impact on one’s ability to accomplish personal finance goals, such as investing in a home purchase. Despite current challenges, those who have saved the down payment for such a major life purchase can still lay claim to a home sweet home.

“Motivated home buyers may have to adjust their expectations when house shopping, but that doesn’t mean a home purchase is out of reach,” Peters said. “A smaller home may be the answer – or a home in a more affordable location. The frenzy of home buying from earlier this year is easing, which means more opportunities in a less crowded market. Be patient and be smart – don’t overpay for a house and don’t waive inspections. Make your home purchase a wise investment and you can reap the financial rewards in the years to come.”

About Michigan Legacy Credit Union

Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative serving members who live, work, worship, attend school, or own a business in the state of Michigan. Michigan Legacy Credit Union is committed to providing quality financial services at a competitive price, delivered professionally and efficiently while keeping member/owners and their needs first. For additional information on MLCU, visit: www.michiganlegacycu.org.

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Michigan Legacy Credit Union Partners with Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology to fight financial exploitation of vulnerable adults

Pilot program will use Wayne State’s Financial Vulnerability Survey and be shared throughout Michigan’s credit union community at upcoming events

Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero; EAFocus Communications; barbara@eafocus.com; 248.260.8466; Cheryl Deep, WSU Institute of Gerontology; cheryldeep@wayne.edu; 248.225.9474

Wyandotte, Mich. — April 25, 2022 — Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU), with branches in Wyandotte, Warren, Pontiac, Highland and Flat Rock and 24-hour online banking services, is pleased to announce it has launched a pilot program with Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology to help protect its vulnerable members from financial exploitation. The announcement was made by Michigan Legacy Credit Union President and CEO Carma Peters.

In September of 2021, Michigan enacted the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act, requiring financial institutions to offer training and procedures to recognize financial exploitation and protect vulnerable clients from becoming victims.  After learning of Wayne State’s Financial Vulnerability Survey, a short questionnaire to determine the risk of financial exploitation, Peters saw an immediate opportunity to take action on behalf of MLCU members.

“Older adult financial exploitation is at epidemic heights,” Peters said. “Sadly, these crimes are often swept under the rug because victims are too ashamed to report them.  We never want to see a credit union member financially manipulated and victimized, and this pilot program provides resources to truly empower our staff and our members.”

New members of the credit union age 50 and up are automatically offered the Financial Vulnerability Survey – and dozens have taken it thus far.  Their scores are included in a database to help monitor these members’ accounts for abnormal financial activity. All MLCU credit union staff participated in multiple training sessions with Wayne State on the survey and learned how to identify and discuss cognitive risk factors before exploitation occurs. As a result of this training, staff members have already been able to address several cases of older financial exploitation.

The Financial Vulnerability Survey is one of several tools created by Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, ABPP, to combat fraud and financial exploitation in older adults. Lichtenberg is the director of the Institute of Gerontology. For nearly two decades, he has done extensive research to develop and validate a variety of financial decision-making and vulnerability tools. The Financial Vulnerability Survey (FVS), a self-administered tool for older adults, is the most recent. The 17-question survey identifies older adults at increased risk of financial fraud and exploitation and suggests resources to help protect them.

“The FVS is easy to understand and to complete,” Dr. Lichtenberg said. “It resonates with older people who are concerned about their financial decision making. Finances are often a taboo topic for discussion, yet people are hungry for information about their own financial vulnerability level.”  The FVS and other tools to assess financial decision making, plus resources for professionals, caregivers and older adults can be found at Lichtenberg’s website OlderAdultNestEgg.com.

Persons at risk or who have already been financially victimized are referred to the Institute of Gerontology’s SAFE program for help.  SAFE (Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment) offers counseling at no cost to help repair the damage of financial scams. Among other things, SAFE helps to recover funds, file police reports, and freeze credit reports as well as deepen client’s financial literacy.

“Through this pilot program with Wayne State, we can now point members to olderadultnestegg.com for valuable training and resources,” Peters said. “Studies show older adults who read the information are more likely to identify signs of financial exploitation before it happens.”

Expanding credit union education on financial exploitation

Peters and Lichtenberg will discuss the pilot project and financial exploitation protections with other credit unions at Audit Link’s Conversations on Compliance May 25 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and on June 10 at the Michigan Credit Union’s Annual Convention and Expo at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. Michigan Legacy Credit Union also created a campaign during April’s Financial Literacy Month to encourage existing members and owners to take the FVS and have their scores uploaded to the credit union’s database.

“Ideally, this pilot program will be utilized throughout the state of Michigan, and nationally, to help combat this epidemic and provide another tool to protect older adults from financial fraud,” Peters said.

Anonymous data from the project will be analyzed by Lichtenberg and his team to expand research insights into vulnerability and safeguards for older adults.

About Michigan Legacy Credit Union

Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative serving members who live, work, worship, attend school, or own a business in the state of Michigan. Michigan Legacy Credit Union is committed to providing quality financial services at a competitive price, delivered professionally and efficiently while keeping member/owners and their needs first. For additional information on MLCU, visit: www.michiganlegacycu.org.

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Credit Union CEO explains how online bill pay systems can thwart fraud, maximize convenience

Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero; EAFocus Communications; barbara@eafocus.com; 248.260.8466

Wyandotte, Mich. — June 9, 2022 — Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU), with branches in Wyandotte, Warren, Pontiac, Highland and Flat Rock, and a complete menu of 24-hour online banking services, urges consumers to consider using online bill pay services through their financial institution for reasons that range from security to building a good credit score. First and foremost, according to Michigan Legacy Credit Union President and CEO Carma Peters, online bill paying can be a strong deterrent against cybertheft.

“Consumers who pay bills online by going directly to the merchant or service provider website are creating unnecessary vulnerabilities for their financial information because they create multiple accounts and repeatedly provide private information so enticing to cyber criminals,” Peters said. “With online bill pay services through a financial institution, there is only one account, and the consumer can pay almost all their bills through that account.”

Systems like Michigan Legacy’s online billing payment app, Bill Pay, allow users to pay bills safely through its secure portal, from a credit card bill and mortgage payment to a utility, child care services or a doctor bill. Because bills can be paid anytime or scheduled for payment, the option means no missed bills that can ding one’s credit score or temporarily cut off access to important services. This can be especially important for senior citizens who pay their bills by check and are unable to keep up with them should they be hospitalized or in a rehab facility.

Peters adds that the overwhelming majority of fraud occurs at the merchant’s site. That’s why financial institutions like MLCU reserve the right to shut off credit or debit card payments to retailers who are experiencing a high degree of online theft or fraud. Ultimately, it’s the financial institution that pays the price of the fraudulent activity, while consumers risk identity theft and its accompanying hassles.

MLCU has offered online bill pay services for about 15 years, but use of its Bill Pay system has grown significantly in recent years due to the convenience, the pandemic and now – high gas prices. More than 4,000 members utilize Bill Pay services; in May 2022, members completed 4,496 payments through it, totaling $1,547,125. The service has an added attraction to younger members because Bill Pay also allows person-to-person payments without the risks that can accompany competing services such as Zelle or Venmo.

“As a cooperative financial institution, we are committed to the safest banking options for our members,” Peters said. “Offering comprehensive online services that enable our members to limit their personal and financial information exposure outside of our credit union means a better experience for all.”

About Michigan Legacy Credit Union

Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative serving members who live, work, worship, attend school, or own a business in the state of Michigan. Michigan Legacy Credit Union is committed to providing quality financial services at a competitive price, delivered professionally and efficiently while keeping member/owners and their needs first. For additional information on MLCU, visit: www.michiganlegacycu.org.

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