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Danger: Spiders! Keeping Kids Safe on the Worldwide Web

 

Your kids won't see who is preying on them, so vigilance is imperative

Singer/Songwriter Melissa Manchester has a famous song titled A Mother and Father’s Prayer in which she sings

Would you please take them under wing

Watch over them especially

Keeping them safe from everything

This is a mother’s prayer

 

The world can seem overwhelming for a parent trying to protect their child.  However, being proactive can bring back a feeling of empowerment.  One danger parents may not always consider is the potential harm lurking on the internet.  It is real and has the potential to devastate lives..

A spider weaves elaborate webs to capture unsuspecting creatures so that they can consume them.  While the worldwide web has transformed our lives and placed enormous amounts of information at our fingertips, the comparison of the perilous aspects of its accessibility to a spider’s web is important.  With the freedom of expression and information comes the risk of harm to adults through online fraud scams discussed elsewhere here and to children through online predators.

How can we instill in our kids a confidence and faith in humanity while still protecting them from harm, and even from themselves?  The worldwide aspect of the web means that no single government is able to restrict what people in other countries can post.  Consequently, those who wish to prey upon innocent victims are able to maneuver with alarming ease and can do a lot of damage.  Here are some general rules families should abide by:

  • Think twice before giving kids, even teens,  personal computers with web access in their bedrooms.  They should only be allowed to go online when adults are present and in a shared space such as the living room.  It should be clear that at any time the child’s internet use could be monitored.  Tracking software and parental controls are available.
  • Kids should not be given internet access on cell phones.  Many parents now choose to give their kids mobile phones for emergency and ease of communication between parent and child, but they should not have unfettered access to the internet.
  • Parents should have frequent, ongoing dialogue about the internet with their kids.  The positive attributes of the web should be balanced with detailed explanations of how predators can operate.  Just as kids are taught not to talk to strangers who approach them in public or take candy from them, they should not talk to strangers online.

           

PFCU CFO Robert Norris says he explained to his son that allowing him unmonitored access to the internet would be like placing a stack of adult magazines in his bedroom and asking him not to look at them, and then shutting the door.  “It isn’t fair to him”, he reasoned.

One huge culprit is file-sharing.  In this, the spider is actually spawning many other spiders and they create more webs at an alarming rate, but they all come back to your computer, bringing more hazards!  People love the concept of being able to connect to computers owned by individuals all over the world and quickly gaining access to music, software, images or documents in which they share an interest with others.  Part of the problem lies in the way file-sharing works.  In many cases, you are literally handing control of your computer over to someone else and allowing them to get into all your files, as well as loading anything they want onto your computer.  They can easily upload something illegal onto your database, whether it’s unlawfully acquired intellectual property or even illegal pornographic material.  Once this material is on your computer, it can quickly be shared with others who are connected to the file-sharing network.  This now makes you a distributor of the shared material in the eyes of the law.  One can see how this can quickly become a recipe for disaster. The best way to steer clear of this kind of trouble is to avoid file-sharing sites altogether. 

An article on Kidshealth.org sites the example of a child searching for ‘Lego” and making a typographical error that the search engine auto-corrects to the word ‘legs’.  Now the child may be hit with a barrage of inappropriate images. 

Parental control settings can be a valuable tool but do not rely on them alone. 

Stay involved in your child’s online experience.   The internet can be a wonderful place if approached correctly.  Stay informed and keep your kids informed so that they make the right choices.

Rest assured that PFCU is doing all we can to keep our members safe online. Check out the Kid’s Privacy Policy on our website.  The safety and well-being of our kids is all of our responsibility.

Lyrics from A Mother’s and Father’s Prayer by Melissa Manchester and Karen Taylor-Good

© Copyright 2004 Song Guru Music/Bug/Windswept Music  Used by permission

Time to Escape Banking Fees! Time to Join PFCU!

There's no time like the present to escape bank fees and mediocre service by joining a credit union.

Why a credit union?  Why PFCU?  There are LOTS of reasons! 

Suze Orman, Jane Bryant Quinn and numerous financial websites such as CULookup, Find a Credit Union and creditcardconnection.org  to name a few, have been touting credit unions for years.  The clamor reached a fever pitch recently when big banks announced plans to begin charging people to use their debit cards.  When something has been free and suddenly isn’t, people notice.  Actually, there have been more subtle ways that bank customers have been paying more and getting less for several years.  Even as the economy worsened, many consumers saw dramatic increases in credit card rates over the past decade.  Fees of all sorts increased or appeared seemingly out of thin air.  People are feeling it more than ever and are looking for alternatives.

So why a credit union?  There are lots of very good reasons.  First, a credit union is a non-profit financial cooperative owned by members, not stockholders and run by a volunteer Board of Directors from the local community who are also members, rather than a board, which receives compensation and may not otherwise be connected to the people who bank there.  Consequently, credit union earnings which exceed operating expenses are returned to the members in the form of lower rates on loans, higher rates on savings, and fewer fees.  The difference can be quite stark.  The credit union motto is “People Helping People” and we take that very seriously.  That’s why you will see credit union employees out in the community teaching financial literacy, volunteering for community service, and offering sensible, low-cost financial services to our area, including those who under-served by other financial institutions. 

If you are thinking of joining a credit union, Pasadena Federal Credit Union is an outstanding choice!  It’s no accident PFCU was voted “2011 Best Bank/Credit Union in the San Gabriel Valley” by the readers of the Pasadena Star News, Whittier Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and LA Times.  We have outstanding loan and deposit products and exemplary service our members rave about. 

Take credit cards for example.  Suze Orman refers viewers and readers to www.creditcardconnection.org, a site that has ranked all of the credit cards for banks and credit unions nationwide.  PFCU has received five out of five stars and made the “Dean’s List”.  Our card has no annual fee, no cash advance fee, no balance transfer fee, no over-the-limit fee and no default rate.  Wait until you see our low APR, which is well-below even the low end of the national average quoted in a recent AP article

PFCU has the same low rate for new or used car loans.  We allow deposits of at least $1,000 at a time to Share Certificates.  We don’t charge you to use your debit card.  You can use our Coinstar™ machine to deposit up to $100 in coin each day for FREE as a member

PFCU is also more convenient than you might think!  Although there is one branch with our name on it, it’s like we have more than 4,000 branches nationwide because we team up with other credit unions.  Go to www.cuswirl.com to find a shared branch location near you that allows you to deposit and withdraw from PFCU accounts and make PFCU loan payments as long as you have your account number and ID with you.  There is also an iPhone or Droid app to make finding a branch even easier. 

PFCU does not charge to use ANY ATM machine.  You may incur charges at a bank ATM, but with more than 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide including 7-Eleven, Costco and Bank of the West, you won’t need to use one of those machines.  Just text an address, intersection or zip code to 692667 (MYCO-OP) or go to the locations tab of our website.  There are free phone apps and navigation apps as well. 

What are you waiting for?  The time is NOW to join a credit union.  PFCU is a smart choice you will be happy about for years to come.

Sammy Rabbit Blog: Do You Have the Right Rhythm?

Hello to All My Friends!

It is time to head back to school and I have a question for you – do you have rhythm? According to the dictionary, the word rhythm can mean a typical pattern of movement or an activity in which some action repeats regularly. Now compare that definition to one of my favorite words, habit! The dictionary defines a habit as a pattern of behaving that has become fixed by repeating it often. The definitions are very similar, aren’t they? Basically, a rhythm and a habit are ways of behaving we repeat again, again, and again.  

When it comes to the 3 BIG “S’s,” school, saving and spending, we all have rhythms and habits. Do you know what your rhythms and habits are when it comes to school, saving money and spending money? For example, what is your daily rhythm or habit – do you play or do your homework first? If you are not sure what your rhythm or habits are when it comes to school, saving and spending, you will want to find out. Why? Because, being aware of and picking the right rhythms and habits helps a person achieve their dreams and goals.

Here are two tips to help you with school, saving and spending rhythms and habits:

  1. Keep a journal of how you choose to use your time and money
  2. Review your journal with your mom, dad, teacher and a manager where you save your money. Ask them if you are practicing the right rhythms and habits to achieve your dreams and goals.

 

I know you can do it. Now, go get to it!

Your friend,

   

Learn more about Sammy and his mission to help kids get in the habit of saving money and make dreams come true at www.itsahabit.com

© 2011 The It’s a Habit Company, Inc.

Let Your Pink Slip Help You Get Out of the Red

Your pink slip could be your ticket to lower rates!

Many people have worked hard to get their cars paid off and still have plenty of miles to go before they need a new vehicle.  It’s a great feeling to have that pink slip in hand!  But, if one still has credit card payments or other unsecured debt, money may be slipping away.  If you are in that position, why not let your pink slip work for you?

While mortgage rates are at historic lows, many people with good credit can get even lower rates with a loan against their vehicle.  At PFCU, for example, our best rate can be had on new or used vehicles for up to 60 months, and there is no pre-payment penalty, so if things change you can react easily.  Consolidating higher interest debt with a car loan can help your credit score, too.   But be careful.   These loans, which are often referred to as “Car Title Loans” or “Pink Slip Loans”, are offered by a score of predatory lenders, but they are actually the same car loans your credit union has always offered!  Isn’t it great to know you can get a fantastic rate without all the fees at a credit union known and loved in the community like PFCU?  You can even apply right here, right now!

There are a few things to consider when determining if refinancing a vehicle with a clear title makes sense. 

  1. What is the value of the car?  Is it an older vehicle?  PFCU will finance up to 100% of Kelly Retail Bluebook value of cars 2003 or newer, although the rate on model years 2003-2004 is a bit higher.  
  2. How is your credit?  In most cases, your rate will be determined by your credit score.  Applying for a loan is quick and easy, and your loan officer will be able to tell you what your rate and payment will be.  A peek at your credit card statements will show how much you are paying toward interest every month, and they generally indicate how long it will take to pay off the balance if you just make the minimum payment. It can be very discouraging to make payments month after month with little reduction in the principal. An auto loan is usually amortized to pay off completely in two to seven years.  Remember how you paid off that car once?  You can do it again! 
  3. When do you plan to get a new car?  A good practice when paying off a car loan is to put the amount of the former payment into a savings account for maintenance and repairs, and ultimately for a down payment on a new car.  If you haven’t done that, you will need to make sure you can cover maintenance and have the means to get a new car when the time comes.  Chances are, by paying off your credit cards with a car loan, you will lower your payments each month.  Perhaps you can start by putting the difference away into a savings account earmarked for car expenses, whether it’s maintenance or repairs on your current vehicle, or a down payment.  
  4. Get Gap coverage and Mechanical Breakdown Insurance.  The Gap will pay off your loan if your car is stolen or totaled and you owe more than it’s worth.  Plus, with ours you even get $1,000 toward a new car! 

 Mechanical Breakdown Insurance will help you manage repair costs so there are no surprises.  It’s like the extended warranty you get at the dealer, but MUCH less expensive.

To summarize, refinancing a vehicle with a clear title is something to explore.  Call one of our friendly loan specialists and we can help you determine if it makes sense for you right over the phone.  Your pink slip might get you from red ink to black sooner than you think.

Fuel Efficient Cars Pay For Themselves … And Then Some!

 

There are now many fuel-efficient cars on the market to save you money.

Even though gas has dropped below $4 per gallon, if you have a long commute to work, run errands on the weekend and/or take trips out of town, fuel takes a big chunk out of your monthly budget. If you drive an SUV, large pickup truck or an old gas guzzling sedan, the hit to your wallet is even greater.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could reduce your fuel bill AND drive a new car? You can! In fact, a brand new fuel efficient car could pay for itself in the first month … and then some!

According to the gas mileage savings calculator on auto website edmunds.com, if you trade in a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban, Cadillac Escalade or Dodge Ram 2500 Quad Cab for a 2011 Toyota Yaris sedan, Chevrolet Aveo sedan, or even a Volkswagen Jetta, you would save from $271 to $372 per month on gas: easily covering a monthly loan payment after your trade-in, and then some*.  In some cases, the value on your SUV may actually be worth more than your new car!

Let’s look at some specific numbers.

Say you own a 2007 Chevy Suburban LT 2500, and trade it in for a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta four-door sedan.  The Suburban is still worth $17,265, and the new Jetta with typical options sells for only $15,450.  Now, let’s assume you financed the Suburban over six years and still owe $15,000.  If you sell it for $15,000 and pay off your loan, you’d have to finance the entire Jetta.

A deal breaker?  Nope!  You’d still come out ahead.  Way ahead.

Let’s assume you have average credit and don’t qualify for the lowest available rate; we’ll assume you have an interest rate of 6.99% APR. Your Suburban monthly payment was $681.77, and the SUV only gets 14 miles to the gallon.  Your new Jetta, financed over five years, would have a monthly payment of $305.86; and, gets 29 miles to the gallon.

So, you’d save $271 per month on gas alone … PLUS, another $375.91 on your monthly car loan payment … AND, you’d be driving a brand new car!

That’s almost $650 added to your monthly budget, a better choice for the environment, and a brand new car that’s covered by a dealer’s warranty!  You’d save even more if you purchased a smaller vehicle that has even better gas mileage than the Jetta.

How much is your used vehicle worth?  Edmunds.com is a good resource, but you might also want to try Clearbook.com, a popular new website that uses used car listings to determine the current market value of your vehicle. Simply enter your zip code, make, model, options, mileage and condition to receive a low, average and high price.

Loan rates still at historic lows, making the cost of financing a new vehicle very affordable. At PFCU, our loan rates for new and used cars are currently as low as 2.99% APR for terms up to 5 years.  You can apply online or print an application to complete and return to us by mail, fax, or in a branch.

*Gas savings based on 2,000 miles per month at $3.80/gallon gas.  Loan payments assume an interest rate of 6.99% APR.

Arroyo Time Bank: People Helping People

Time is money
Time can be a valuable currency

The credit union motto is “People Helping People” and that’s what our new community partner, Arroyo Time Bank is all about.  Learn more in this informative Guest Blog:

What is Time Banking?

At its most basic level, time banking is simply about building community one hour at a time by doing something for someone else in the community. That hour is recorded in the time bank, then you get an hour to spend on having someone help you. It’s a simple idea, but it has powerful ripple effects in building community connections. Have you ever wished you had someone to help you get something done during your day? In a Time Banking community, your neighbors help you get it done.

Our Relationship with Money and PCFU

Pasadena Federal Credit Union (PCFU) and the Arroyo Time Bank (ATB) both value community and work to strengthen the community as a whole, which is why we chose Pasadena Federal Credit Union as our financial institution. 

    Currency, at its most basic level, is a medium of exchange, a way to get things or get things done. As such, using time as a currency is complementary to what you do with your regular currency (U.S. dollars). Instead of banking on the gold standard, time banking uses the “friendship standard” to create an alternative currency. Your investment in your relationships creates your earning and spending capacity.

As a banking institution, PFCU supports and builds the community through community oriented lending practices and community service. A time bank like ATB builds one-on-one relationships in the community through reciprocity. This reciprocity is tracked through the earning and spending of time credits. 

Time banking is not intended to replace money. It is intended to build community, providing a safety net of friendship for us all.

Five Core Values

There are five core values in time banking. First, we are all assets. We believe that every human being has something to contribute.

Second is redefining work, the concept that some work is beyond price; valuing whatever it takes to raise healthy children, advance social justice, and make the planet sustainable. That kind of work needs to be honored, recorded, and rewarded.

Third is reciprocity. Helping works better as a two-way street. We can help each other build the world we both will live in.

Fourth is building social networks. We need each other. Networks are stronger than individuals. People helping each other reweave communities of support, strength and trust.

Fifth is respect. Every human being matters. Respect underlies freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and everything we value. Respect supplies the heart and soul of democracy. When respect is denied to anyone, we all are injured. Time Banking honors the unique gifts, talents and resources that each of us has to share, regardless of age, employment or ethnic background.

Our Projects
      The Arroyo Time Bank pioneers and supports several community-wide projects to fit the needs of our diverse community. These include the following: the Neighborhood Fruit Picking Project, the Altadena Urban Farmer’s Market, and the Neighborhood Resilience Project at the Armory’s Madison Casita.
 

For more information on Arroyo Time Bank events, projects, and for instructions on how to join, please visit the Arroyo Time Bank website  AND, Arroyo Time Bank members are now eligible to join PFCU!

Is 0% Dealer Financing Really a Good Deal?

Car-buying CAN be a pleasant experience if you do your homework and get pre-approved

Automobile sales are on the rise as the economy improves.  With fuel prices also going up, many people are switching to more efficient vehicles.  

Are you among those Americans in the market for a new vehicle?  Are you being lured to the dealer by 0% financing ads on TV?  Before you hit the showroom floor, you’ll want to consider whether dealer financing is as good in the long run as a loan from your Credit Union.  There are certainly many fine dealerships in existence, but they are well-versed in ways to manipulate a deal, and you should be, too.

One of the biggest complaints consumers have about dealer financing is it puts the dealer in control of the transaction.  When you already have an approved loan from your credit union, it’s the same to the dealer as cash in your hand, which you can take away if you don’t like the way negotiations are going.  You’re in control of negotiating, and can often negotiate a lower price and/or extra options.

If you’re dependent upon dealer financing, the dealer can choose to stand firm on the car’s sticker price rather than negotiate, withhold cash back offers, ignore trade-in credits or add on extras you don’t want, like credit insurance.

And, if your credit history is less than perfect, you won’t qualify for those 0% finance deals.  Additionally, most 0% offers only apply to some makes and models, and are only good for 24 months … after that ‘teaser’ period, the rate increases to far more that you would pay at the credit union, and often come with a penalty if you attempt to refinance elsewhere.

When you finance a car short-term, the payment is often unmanageable. While you may optimistically agree to these terms thinking you can “find a way to make it work,” oftentimes you’ll end up damaging your credit rating with late payments, or suffer an inability to meet other financial obligations.

An old trick in the dealer book is to take your driver’s license from you while you’re testing driving the car. This isn’t for liability reasons, as the salesman will claim; rather, it’s so the credit department can run your credit. If you’re already pre-approved from your credit union, simply show the salesman you have a valid driver’s license … if he insists upon confiscating it for the duration of the test drive, walk away.  (Chances are, he won’t let you walk away and will agree to your terms!)

If you have less than perfect credit, you can be assured your experience will be positive and confidential.  Our loan officers aren’t predatory like car salesmen, and they won’t discuss your credit history out in an open showroom in front of strangers.

PFCU’s current auto loan rates are still historically low.  At those rates, you’re better off taking the cash rebate, or negotiating yourself a better sticker price.  

For more information on PFCU’s auto loans and pre-approval process, visit the Credit Union or call (626)799-0882.  You can also just click the APPLY NOW button on our website at www.pfcu.org