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Join Us for Money Smart Week and Master Your Money!

Learn how to build your net worth and marriage

Looking to Master Your Money? Great news; Money Smart Week is coming up quick and with it a ton of great events and resources to help you!

Created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002, Money Smart Week® is a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances. This year it runs April 18 – 25, 2015.

There are events throughout the week from partner organizations including financial institutions, libraries, government agencies, media and nonprofits. They’ll be covering all of the major money topics and reaching out to all demographics.

What makes this especially good is that All Money Smart Week® events are FREE! 

Master Your Money

Couple Money is teaming up this year with an group a personal finance bloggers and podcasters to help you master your money. With so much to cover, it’s divided into two sessions so you can get the information and encouragement you need to tackle your money problems.

For those curious, here are the panelists:




The topic I’ll be tackling is How to Stop Fighting About Money and Build Wealth Instead. It will be focused on helping couples who have different and opposite getting on the same page

The session is free, but seating is limited. Register for either or both Master Your Money sessions today (use the links below) and reserve your spot.

Curious About How to Master Your Money

If you have any questions you’d like answered, please email me. I’ll also be updating this post as more information becomes available.

What You Need to Know About Mortgages

Learn from a mortgage loan officer what you need to know before you buy a house.

Buying a house is typically the biggest purchase couples make. You two can be ahead of the curve and save tens of thousands of dollars by learning the essentials about mortgages.

I’m not a professional financial expert so I compiled a list of questions that home buyers may have and sent them to Coastal Federal Credit Union.

They came through and one of their mortgage loan officers took the time to answer my questions about buying a home and getting a mortgage that works with your budget.

(Note: Minor editing to make format it for this post)

Saving Enough to Buy a House

While saving for a down payment is a necessary step if you want to buy a house you can afford, there are other expenses you need to be aware. Preparing ahead for these costs will make the process go a lot of smoother for the two of you and your budget.

What mistakes have you seen first time home buyers make when purchasing? 

  • Failing to plan. We encourage you to sit down with a lender first before starting the homebuying process. Get preapproved before you shop
  • Not working with a good realtor. Have a buyer’s agent, rather than calling the seller’s agent on a the sign from a home you saw
  • Not getting all the recommended inspections. Again, a good buyer’s agent can guide you through the process, and help you choose the inspections that will best protect you
  • Not Tapping into your network. Look to family and trusted friends for recommendations for both your lender and an agent.

Besides the down payment, what are some typical costs that home-buyers needs to plan and save for?

  • Moving expenses
  • turning on utilities
  • furnishings, appliances
  • maintenance items / tools
  • décor
  • sometimes there are repairs that are needed that the sellers didn’t cover

One bit of advice we give our members is to avoid buying things before closing, especially if you are using credit, because the added credit balances could affect their final credit check prior to closing the mortgage. Consider whether they have to buy out the remainder of a lease if they are renting.

For a couple looking to buy there first home, how would you advised them to plan? What numbers should they think about and run BEFORE they shop around for a lender? 

Start with the lender in order to get an understanding of how much home you can realistically afford. Go in knowing how much you spend on household and reoccurring expenses now, including rent; how much they owe on other loans and what your disposable income is .

Shop lenders for the first time homebuyer program that works best for you. Look for a lender that’s willing to hold your hand through the process.

Mortgage Interest Rates, APRS, Origination Fees, and Points

Besides saving for your house, it’s important to understand all the terms of your mortgage. That means becoming familiar with the jargon that lenders use.

When shopping around looking at various lenders’ sites, typically I see the interest rate and APR given. What exactly is the difference between the two? 

APR is a tool to standardize the comparison from one loan to the next. It is the annualized cost of the loan, including all of the interest and lender’s fees. The CFPB recommends that borrowers should always use APR for the best comparison. The interest rate is a component of APR.

What are origination points and how do they work? 

Origination and points are two different things. Origination is the lender’s fee and covers a variety of the services they provide in preparing the loan. Fees range from 0 to 1% of the total loan. Discount points are prepaid interest and are used to buy down the rate. Both origination fees and discount points vary from lender to lender.

Thoughts on Buying a House

What other questions do you have about buying a home or mortgages?

Spring Break, Being Money Smart, and Traveling

Couple Money links around the web

My mom is on spring break this week so we’re doing a family weekend trip. She offered to watch the kids for a couple of days, giving us some time to unwind at the beach. Yay grandparents!

If you’re on break too, I have some great reads to share.

Couple Money Around the Web

Besides writing here, I also run the Couple Money Podcast, contribute to other sites, and occasionally do interviews. Here are few things I’ve been busy with:

  • My Moneystepper Savings Challenge Update on Moneystepper: Since joining the challenge, it’s been a busy few months with having our second daughter and getting back to work. I talk to Graham about the progress we’ve made so far on our 2015 goals.
  • 5 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund on TurboTax: We received our tax refund last month and it was divided between helping us grow out net worth and covering the weekend trip. I listed some other ways you can spend your money to boost your finances.
  • The Saver’s Credit Explained on TurboTax: If you put some money into your retirement accounts in 2014 and haven’t filed your taxes yet, come check my post to see if you qualify for the Saver’s Credit.
  • How to Travel for Free….With Kids on Couple Money Podcast: Dan Miller from Points with a Crew shared how he and his family of eight save a ton of money when they travel around the country.

If you haven’t check out the Couple Money Podcast, please do. Besides Dan talking about travel, we recently had episodes covering credit unions, buying a house, and starting a home garden. It’s free to subscribe to CMP!

Money and More Posts I Loved This Week

I found a few gems this week on saving and earning more money.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend!

How Credit Unions Can Boost Your Family’s Finances

Credit unions can be a great place for your joint bank accounts

Last week the Couple Money Podcast ran an episode about using credit unions for your joint accounts. Joe Mecca from Coastal Federal Credit Union was the special guest and he took time to answer some questions that people have about credit unions.

If you two are looking for a place to move your money, then you may want to consider adding some local credit unions to your list. You may find that they are a better fit for your financial goals.

What Makes a Credit Union Different?

Credit unions offer many of the same services as a bank – checking, saving, and money market accounts. Members can apply for car and mortgages. So what is the big deal between them?

The main difference with credit unions and banks is how they are structured. Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives that serve their members. When you join the credit union, you are part owner.

While a bank may reward shareholders, credit unions return their surplus income to their members in the form of dividends, better interest rates (both with deposits and loans), other benefits.

Bankrate’s 2015 Credit Union Checking Survey found that credit union checking accounts also tended to be cheaper than banks in other areas:

  • Lower overdraft fees
  • Lower minimum amount to open an account
  • Lower fees to use an out-of-network ATM

On top of those lower fees, surveys reveal that credit unions have higher customer satisfaction. My personal experience with credit unions has been fairly positive. One thing that appealed to me was the community feel and the personalized attention.

How Can You Qualify for Membership

While banks can be open to just anyone, credit unions do have a field of membership. Back in the day, many credit unions were based around an employer such as a school system or the state government. Now there are credit unions based on numerous bonds such as:

  • membership in an organization
  • geographical location
  • group membership – such as a church or school

As you can see it’s expanded to the point that there is probably a credit union that you qualify for in your area. You may also apply to be a member of a credit union if a close relative is already one.

Finding the Right Account for Your Money

Whether it’s a bank or credit union, you want your money at a place where it is not getting drained by ridiculous fees. When you’re looking at credit unions ask questions and see if they can offer a checking account that addresses your needs such as:

  • NCUA insured
  • No maintenance fees
  • Pretty fast (and free) bill pay system
  • Conveniently located ATMs
  • Good customer service

I learned from Joe that credit unions that particpate in the Allpoint network gives you access to surcharge free ATMs around the world, a big plus if you travel much. If you want to see if a local credit union can provide what you need, you can use this tool from the National Credit Union Administration

Thoughts on Credit Unions

I’d love to hear from you about your experience with credit unions – good and bad. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. How many of you are members of a credit union? What kind of service do you get?

What’s Your One Page Financial Plan?

writing financial goals

While I’m a firm believer that couples should have a financial game plan, I don’t think it has to be complicated or tediously detailed. Obsessing over the numbers can be counter-productive as we all have unexpected events happen which can throw our carefully laid plans off.

It’s better to have a plan with enough flexibility to handle these curve balls so you can simply adjust as needed. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then you should check out Carl Richards’ new book The One Page Financial Plan.onepagebook

It’s a great read to have around whenever the two of you need to brush up on your financial and personal goals. (Pssst… you can enter to win a copy – check out the details after this post! )

The Most Important Money Question You Need to Answer

Most people visit financial planners like Carl because they want answers on what to do with their money. They want to know how much to save and invest, which debts to pay down first, or whether or not they can retire soon. The last thing they’d expect to hear from a planner is a question that Carl Richards asks his clients – Why is money so important to you?

In The One Page Financial Plan points out that understanding why you want to build your finances is critical. A CFP that is truly interest in you would give advice tailored to your needs, goals, and resources.

Imagine if you want to the doctor and she prescribed something before you’ve been examined and interviewed. You’ve probably find another doctor and quick. The same should apply to coming up with a financial plan – you need to look at the current situation and come up with the destination before you map things out.

As you’ve seen here on Couple Money, I think starting off with goals can be more productive. However it can be difficult to talk about money if you haven’t had much experience (or if previous attempts were tense). So how can you two apply this with your own finances?

Your One Page Financial Plan

Next time you have a money chat (go out and have some drinks!) bring a note pad and try it out. Talk about what money means to each of you. You may be surprised by what your spouse has to say.

Don’t worry so much about the numbers, just see think and dream about where you want to be and how you’d like to get there. When you two have a general idea of what you’d like to do, go ahead and write those down in the notepad.

Somethings you may want to keep in mind when talking about your plan:

  • Pick the right time to have the talk. Being in the right frame of mind is huge, so please avoid having this chat right after a stressful day.
  • Make it fun. Get out of the house to chat.
  • Don’t push it. If you two can’t get on the same page now, it’s okay. You can come back to it once you’ve had a chance to relax and think up some ideas.

Win the Book!

For those looking to improve your finances this year I have good news – I’m giving away two copies of the The One Page Financial Plan!

All you have to do is share your financial plan with me.

You can either:

I’ll round up all the entries and choose two winners next Monday, April 6, 2015 during my lunch break (at 1pm ET). I can’t wait to hear from you and see what big plans you have for this year!