5 Questions with Lisa Hammen – Financial Services Representative, Grand Branch.

1. What are some of the first steps someone could make in improving their financial health?

I think the first step is to lay all their debt out on the table, and embrace it.  From there, create a budget and debt reduction plan. It’s important to realize that as you go, that budget may evolve and change over time, and that is okay! Be realistic with your budget. Allow room for fun, while staying within your means. To start your budget, make a list of all of your monthly expenses and bills, along with their due dates.  Utilize that list when allocating your income during your budget creation process. Take a sweep of your statements and see what subscriptions can go and what can stay. Often, we get roped into these introductory rates and over time we find we aren’t even using what we are paying for. Can that service be cancelled?   Lastly,  establish savings, start with one and grow from there. Set up automatic transfers into savings that line up with your payroll. It is the most proven way to save. You won’t notice the money gone and you are “paying yourself” first, every pay day. This should be your emergency savings. A new tire alone, could cost up to $400. Should that be needed, would you have the funds? This is the best way to prepare for that.

2. You talk about budgeting, why is budgeting so important?

I think there are many reasons why having a budget is important.  The biggest take away with a budget is that it can really help a person feel empowered, and more on top of where their money is going.  Imagine, if all it took to save an extra $250 a month was to set and follow a budget? Wouldn’t you do it? That’s another important reason why people need a budget, because they don’t know what they are capable of. They could be paying off debt faster, saving more money each month or making the right moves to reach a financial goal they have. I think the biggest thing to keep in mind when creating a budget is to account for fun spending ex: eating out, shopping etc. and be realistic for your situation.  Knowledge is power my friends, and a budget brings a lot of knowledge to the table.

3. What is your favorite product at BFCU?

My favorite product we offer, has to be Active Savers.  I started mine about 10 years ago, when the product first rolled out. It amazes me how many people still don’t know about this awesome product with an amazing interest rate! It is really a great savings account. I tell all my members that I call it the “disciplinary savings account”. If you have sat at my desk, then you have probably heard me tell you that. Here is why is a great way to teach you to save. You HAVE to have an automatic transfer set up to this account, totaling $20 a month, in which you can divide up however you feel works best for you. You can do $10 biweekly from payroll, or one scoop of $20 a month. In return, what you get is a competitive interest rate. I cannot rave enough about this product!

4. Credit card debt is the number one obstacle to getting ahead financially. What can someone do tackle credit card debt?

There are a few ways to go about it, calling the card companies to negotiate lower rates, paying above the minimum payment, or rolling it into a loan for a lower interest rate and to pay off faster. If you find yourself overwhelmed, the best place to begin is calling the Credit Union. We can take a look at the whole picture, and help get you on a path to erasing that debt.

5. Why should someone get preapproved for an auto loan?

It’s kind of like buying a home.  It gives you the confidence of knowing the price range you want to stay in, and the confidence to negotiate a little. As your lender, we are here for YOU. We want to see you in the best position, so you can bounce ideas off us, and compare options. You also can get fully protected with us in your purchase, and rest assured that you have made a good decision. We offer GAP and an Mechanical Warranty typically, at a lower cost than the dealership, with better features. We also offer debt protections, so your investment is fully protected all around and still lines up with your budget.