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At 3Rivers, we know that what matters most to one of our members likely differs from what matters most to another. We believe that meaningful relationships and conversations go a lot further than the products and services we have to offer, and that truly getting to know you is the key to helping you achieve your financial goals and dreams.

To get a better idea of what’s currently on the minds of those in our community, we asked.* And while the responses varied greatly, there were several common themes—almost all of which tie into the collective goal of creating a brighter future and experiencing financial freedom.

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From paying down debt to saving for retirement, affording college to building an emergency fund, and all of those goals in between—we’re here to help. We invite you to explore this page for tools, resources, and key information about some of the most popular concerns in our community.

Building an Emergency Fund

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While building an emergency fund has always been an important part of one’s personal finances, as a result of recent events, it’s quickly jumped to the top of the priority list for many. There are plenty of situations in which having an emergency fund may prove to be useful—including unexpected job loss, a large medical expense, or a costly home or auto repair, just to name a few. Having a cushion like this set aside can help absorb the shock of a financial emergency so you’re able to carry on without taking a hit to your primary checking or savings accounts.

 

Experts typically suggest having three to six months’ worth of income saved in an emergency fund. For many, that number can seem overwhelming and even impossible to set aside—and in most cases, you won’t be able to come up with an emergency savings overnight. But with time, patience, and dedication, you can build it over time.

Here are a few tips for building your emergency fund:

  • STORE IT IN A SAFE PLACE. And one that’s not too tempting to access. We suggest putting your emergency savings into a savings account at a credit union or bank, separate from your standard checking or savings account so you’re not as likely to dip into the funds for day-to-day spending.
  • GIVE THE ACCOUNT A NAME. It’s also wise to put a name on this account as a visual reminder that it’s for emergencies only—so consider naming it something like “Emergency Savings,” “Emergency Fund,” or “Emergencies Only” rather than just simply, “Savings Account.”
  • UTILIZE A SAVINGS ACCOUNT THAT GROWS YOUR MONEY. The beauty of putting your emergency savings into an actual savings account rather than a basic checking account (or keeping it as cash at home), is that it can grow through dividends. And the higher your balance grows, the higher your monthly dividend gets! Our Standard Savings Account is a great option, and for those under 25, our Livin’ Free Savings Account offers an even higher dividend to help grow your money quicker!
  • AUTOMATE YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS. Take a look at your current budget to determine what amount you’re comfortable setting aside—either with each paycheck or once per month—and set up a recurring direct deposit from your paycheck or a monthly transfer from your checking account to go into your emergency fund account.
  • START SMALL. It’s likely not realistic to set aside several hundred dollars each week or even monthly—especially if you don’t have a steady income. Consider starting small and increasing your contributions if and when you can over time. If you get paid bi-weekly, putting just $25-50 of your paycheck into your emergency fund can amount to $650-$1,300 in a year’s time!
  • TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EXTRA INCOME. If you experience extra income—from things like tax refunds, stimulus checks, a three-paycheck-month, or an inheritance—and don’t need those extra dollars for other expenses, put them toward your emergency fund for an added boost. In addition, consider selling items you no longer use, picking up a temporary side-hustle if you have the extra time, or reviewing your budget to see where you may be able to make cuts (especially for unused memberships or subscriptions) and put those savings toward your emergency fund instead.
  • CONSIDER GROWING YOUR SAVINGS WITH A SHARE CERTIFICATE. If you have a larger sum of money to start ($500 or more) and are confident you won’t need that money for the next several months, consider putting some of it into a share certificate to grow more quickly. Once it’s matured and you get it back, immediately put it into your emergency fund.

For additional information on building an emergency fund, check out these resources:

There’s no one-size-fits-all means of building an emergency fund, and we know that there are many factors that come into play when saving such a large amount of money.

Want us to have a look at your current financial state and help you come up with a customized plan for building your emergency fund? Give us a call, stop into your nearest branch, or schedule an appointment today!

 

Saving for & Enjoying Retirement

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When planning for retirement, it’s important to consider not only getting to an age and a dollar amount that justifies retiring, but to ensure you’ve saved and planned enough to live comfortably and happily in your golden years. It’s crucial that you start saving early, keep saving, and regularly check in to see where you’re at—while also having a realistic goal in mind. According to the United States Department of Labor, Americans live, on average, 20 years post-retirement and “will need 70 to 90 percent of [their] preretirement income to maintain [their] standard of living when [they] stop working.”

 

We know that saving that kind of money can seem daunting—no matter your current age—but by educating yourself, coming up with a solid plan, and staying focused, saving for an enjoyable retirement is doable.

Here are some resources you may find helpful, whether you’ve just begun saving for, are nearing, or are already enjoying retirement.

3Rivers Resources:

Government Resources:

 

We’d love to help you get on the right track to retiring comfortably, or see how we may be able to help you enjoy your retirement even more if you’re already there. Give us a call, stop into your nearest branch, or schedule an appointment today!

 

Funding College

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Whether you’re a student thinking about attending college, a parent of a soon-to-be college student, or a college graduate, we have plenty of resources for helping you understand your options when it comes to funding higher education and paying it off!

 

We have a dedicated team of College Funding advisors that are passionate about far more than simply helping you get a loan. They’re available to support students and parents with customized scholarship searches, assist in navigating and making sense of the various types of financial aid, discuss refinancing options, and more—and look at life beyond the college experience, too.

Here are some of our tools and resources to help you make sense of paying for school:

  • Our Students Page: Your one-stop-shop for all things college! From more information about our loan and refinance options to rates, downloads, and more. | Visit Students page.
  • Blog Articles: Our College Funding team breaks down all kinds of student loan-related topics, providing timely information and updates, tips and tricks, an overview of funding processes, and more. | Read blog posts.
  • 3Rivers College Funding Guide: An at-a-glance list of all the steps you should consider taking before attending college and/or applying for a loan. | Download now.
  • Student Loan FAQs: Get answers to some of our most frequently asked questions related to student loans! | See FAQs.
  • Calculators: Wondering how much you should save for college or how much you should borrow? Our calculators can help! | View calculators.
  • Downloads: Check out our helpful guides related to college funding, refinance, the FAFSA, and several career pathways to consider. | Visit download center.
  • Scholarship: Our annual Scholarship Contest launches in late spring/early summer and is open for all students who are members of 3Rivers. | Learn more.
  • 529 College Savings Plans: A 529 College Savings Plan is a great way to build your child’s (or even your own) college savings! These low-maintenance accounts offer generous tax benefits and flexibility, and can help lessen the stress of paying for college when the time comes. | Learn more.
  • FAFSA Support: Our College Funding team is happy to provide students and parents with free assistance in filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). | Learn more.

Our team is always happy to talk with students and parents about their best options when it comes to funding college and paying it off. Give us a call, stop into your nearest branch, or schedule an appointment today!

 

Managing Debt

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There are countless ways one can end up in debt. Perhaps a series of small loans and charges over the years has gotten you there. Or you borrowed for a few big-ticket items you couldn’t afford out of pocket at the time. Or maybe a life event completely out of your control has left you owing thousands. Regardless of how you ended up with the debt to your name, there’s often a universal feeling that comes with knowing you have to pay it off: overwhelm. What are your options? How long will it take? How can you prevent getting even further in debt?

 

While it may feel like your debt it completely unmanageable, trust us when we say: it’s not. You can get it under control—and we can help. The fact that you’re here and seeking more information, rather than ignoring the problem altogether, is a great start. It shows that you’re aware of the position you’re in and ready to take action!

Below, you’ll find some of our best tips, resources, and tools for getting a better idea of where you stand with your debt and some of the steps you can take to creating a realistic strategy for paying it off.

Assess Your Situation

First thing’s first: you need to take an honest look at your overall financial picture. Including your debts, current income, existing savings, spending habits, credit score, bills, and so on to see what you’re working with. Knowing your full financial picture will help you get an idea of what your next steps should be. If you’re working with quite a bit of extra income, your best options will look different than if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

Here are some tools and tips that can help you get a better idea of where you stand currently:

  • Our SavvyMoney Checkup Tool gives you a comprehensive look at your financial health—including your current cash flow, debts, and credit report—and suggests customized debt payoff strategies, budgeting tips, and more based on the information you provide.
  • Calculate Your Debt-to-Income Ratio via the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Round up all of your outstanding loan and credit card balance information (including remaining balances, interest rates, etc.) and have them at-the-ready to make crunching numbers easier when you’re ready to take your next steps. Typically, your most recent online or paper statements will have all this information included.
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Consider Consolidating Your Debts

If you have multiple loans with varying rates, due dates, and balances, debt consolidation is a great option to consider for a few reasons. Rolling all your outstanding loans into one simply makes it easier to keep track of and make one payment each month. Plus, in many cases, a debt consolidation will result in a lower interest rate—which means you could end up with smaller monthly payment. And with a lower interest rate, you may even get on track to paying your debts off sooner.

Here’s a little more information on debt consolidation, how it works, and how it may benefit you. Also, check out our free online LoanSaver tool below to see how much you could potentially save!

Look into Refinancing Options

If you have one major loan you’re tackling—like a mortgage, vehicle loan, or student loan—then refinancing may be an option to consider. Refinancing essentially optimizes that existing loan into a new one with more favorable terms—namely, a lower interest rate. You may also wind up with a better payment schedule or other terms related to the loan. Refinances are most commonly beneficial when it comes to mortgages, vehicle loans, and student loans. Similarly to debt consolidation, refinancing existing debt could result in a lower monthly payment and/or the ability to pay them off sooner!

3Rivers has several options for refinancing. Learn more about:

Know that, depending on your situation, you may not be limited just a debt consolidation or just a refinance. Our team would be happy to help you determine which option would be most beneficial to you—or if you should consider both!

Decide on a Debt Payoff Strategy

While there are several of methods out there related to paying off debt, most boil down, at their core, to two strategies:

  • A Snowball Approach: This method involves making minimum payments on all your other debts, while working to pay off the smallest one first. Once that one is paid off, you’d then take whatever monthly payment you were making on it and add that into your monthly payment on the next smallest debt, and so on, and so on, continuing until you’re left making bigger payments on your largest debt. This method is great for keeping the momentum and your motivation up, as you’ll see quick progress with smaller debts being paid off quickly, but could cost you more in the long run since you’re not tackling those large debts first.
  • Tackling High Interest Debt First: This approach focuses on paying off your debts with the highest interest rates first, since those are costing you the most in the long run. This method requires a little more patience, as you may not feel like you’re making progress right away, but could result in you paying less on all your collective debt over time.

Learn more about these strategies and how to put them into action here.

Research

Do Your Research

As you start to look into your best options and make sense of some of the common terms related to debt—like debt collection, bankruptcy, debt relief services, and more—make sure you’re visiting trusted sources. Here are some of our favorites:

Work with a Professional

It’s important to note that there’s no cookie-cutter solution when it comes to paying off debt. Even if you owe the same exact amount as someone else, your current financial situation, interest rates, loan terms, and more may mean that certain options will be much more beneficial to you than to them, and vice-versa. In some cases, a combination of several options will have the biggest impact. We highly encourage you to reach out to a financial expert to help you develop your own unique debt management plan.

Not sure what your best option is for paying down your debts? We’d be happy to discuss your options and help you come up with a plan! Give us a call, stop into your nearest branch, or schedule an appointment today!

 

Covering Major Expenses

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While you may have the cash on-hand to pay for many things in life, there are likely going to be instances when you need help covering the costs of larger expenses. Whether it’s a new home or a home repair, a dream car or boat, a wedding, or any number of things in between, we’re here to help.

Below, you’ll find some of our options and resources on paying for larger expenses.

 

Home Loans

If you’re in the market to purchase a house, there are several types of home loans to choose from. At 3Rivers, we offer conventional loans, new construction loans, VA, FHA, and USDA loans, and more. The best loan type for you depends on several factors, and our team of loan officers are happy to help you determine which the right choice is for you!

Our mortgage options and resources:

Vehicle Loans

Looking to purchase a new car, truck, boat, RV, ATV, or motorcycle? We don’t just have the loans needed to get you on the road or in the water—we can also help you find your next ride and protect it, too!

Personal Loans

If you need to borrow funds to cover the cost of an expense that doesn’t fit into a traditional loan type like a mortgage or auto loan, and don’t have options like home equity to turn to, a personal loan may be a great route for you to consider! Personal loans are versatile and allow you to take out the exact funds you need to cover the cost of something like a wedding, vacation, medical expense, or even a debt consolidation. | Learn more about personal loans at 3Rivers.

Student Loans

If you—or your child—are planning on attending college, but scholarships and government aid don’t entirely cover the costs, private student loans are an option. At 3Rivers, we offer undergraduate, graduate, and student loan refinance options to help you with every step of your college journey and beyond! | Learn more about student loans at 3Rivers.

Home Equity

If you need a larger sum of money, consider using your home’s equity! A home equity loan is often beneficial over other consumer loan types in that they offer interest rates that tend to be quite a bit lower than the interest rate that comes with credit cards or other loans. There are closed-end home equity loans, which offer a fixed-rate and are paid back over a specific amount of time. A HELOC, on the other hand, provides a greater level of flexibility as it’s a line of credit (similar to a credit card), but it has an adjustable rate that may change over the course of the loan. | Learn more about home equity types here.

Cash-Out Refinance

You may also be able to tap into your home’s equity to cover major expenses by doing a cash-out refinance of your mortgage. Like with a home equity loan, you do need to have equity in your home and be in generally good standing to qualify and benefit from this option, in which you essentially refinance your mortgage for an amount higher than your existing loan, then get the excess funds back to use as needed. Ideally, a cash-out refinance will lower your interest rate and get you the extra funds you're in need of without having a major impact on your monthly payment.

Not sure what your best move is when it comes to covering a major expense? We’re happy to discuss yoru options and help you decide! Give us a call, stop into your nearest branch, or schedule an appointment today!

 

Planning for the Future

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When you think of your future, you may currently have very specific goals and dreams in mind, or your next few years may be a little less defined. Either way, there are steps you can take now to ensure you’re feeling confident and prepared for whatever the coming months, years, and decades may hold for you.

 

We celebrate the fact that there’s no one, clear-cut path that everyone should follow. Maybe you dream of getting married, buying a home, and starting a family. Maybe you’d rather travel the world or go to graduate school abroad, or not go to college at all. Maybe you plan to retire extra early, or refuse to retire, or want to start a business of your own. Maybe you’re in a place where you have no idea what you want just yet. And all of that is perfectly fine by us!

Though the steps you can take to prepare for a comfortable financial future look quite different depending on what paths choose to take, there are some universal elements everyone can focus on to set them up for success, for whatever lies ahead.

Key Steps for a Financially-Sound Future:

Know what’s going on with your money.

Stay engaged and in-the-know about where you’re at financially. Check your account balances often—daily—to stay on-top of what you have in your accounts and to catch anything suspicious. Monitor your credit score and check your credit report annually. Thoroughly review your monthly and year-end financial statements. Check in with your financial institution and/or lenders to see if you’re still in the best product for you, or if you may be able to get a better interest rate by switching accounts, refinancing, or consolidating your debts.

We make it easy to stay connected to your finances around-the-clock with our mobile banking app and online account access. You can check your account balances, make transfers, control your cards, monitor your credit score, and more!

Build an emergency fund.

There are plenty of future situations in which having an emergency fund may prove to be useful—including unexpected job loss, a large medical expense, or a costly home or auto repair, just to name a few. Having a cushion like this set aside can help absorb the shock of a financial emergency so you’re able to carry on without taking a hit to your primary checking or savings accounts.

Check out our tips and resources for building an emergency fund HERE.

Pay down your debts.

Focusing on paying down your existing debts ahead of whatever big plans you have for the future will put you in a better position all around. You’ll be in a better position to borrow another loan down the road if needed. You’ll have more money in your budget month-to-month to put toward an emergency fund or other savings goal. And on an emotional level, you’ll feel better about moving forward without debt weighing you down!

Check out our tips and resources for paying down your debts HERE.

Focus on getting and maintaining a great credit score.

Regardless of what your future holds, you’ll likely need to borrow money at some point. Your credit score is a key factor in lenders deciding if they’ll give you a loan as well as how high your interest rate is if they do. The better your credit score, the better your chances of qualifying for a loan at a lower rate.

Credit Score Resources:

Establish a relationship with a local financial institution.

Having an established relationship with a local credit union or bank can do wonders for you now and in the future. Smaller institutions have more of an opportunity to really connect with their members or customers and get to know their financial situations and goals—and offer them support and resources along their journey. Not only that, but if you’re a long-time member, the financial institution has more history to go on to determine your character, payment history, and more when you apply for a loan or other account. It also makes picking up the phone or scheduling a meeting far more comfortable when you know who you’re talking to, where you’re going, and what to expect!

Be open and honest in discussing your finances with loved ones.

Normalizing financial conversations in your household and with those close to you can have a major impact on your overall financial wellness—especially if you have shared accounts, debts, or goals. Significant others should feel comfortable talking openly about their hopes and concerns when it comes to money, and be willing to work together in setting very clear expectations about finances.

Families in general, too, should be having ongoing conversations about finances—in their current and future state. If you have older parents and have not yet discussed who will be responsible for their assets or fulfilling their financial wishes when they’re no longer able, know that having that conversation now will make things far easier in the future.

And it’s never too early to start talking to your children about finances and teaching them good money habits that they can carry into adulthood!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

When you’re not sure about a financial term, are confused by the fine print, aren’t sure which of several options is best for you, or simply want an expert opinion, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. Finances—and all the things tied to them—can be confusing, and they’re the last thing you want to make decisions about blindly. Speak up when you don’t understand or need something explained further to you.

When you do have a specific goal, come up with a specific plan.

If you’ve set a specific future goal—getting married, having a baby, taking a dream vacation, whatever it may be—it’s time to come up with a plan. Research and consider all your options before jumping into one immediately. Will you be able to save in-full for this goal? If not, could you save enough to cover half the cost, or enough for a down-payment? What will it take in order to do that? Cutting other expenditures out of your budget? Picking up more hours at work? Crunch some numbers, create some timelines, and run those through each option you have at your disposal to determine which makes the most sense.  

You may find some of our calculators, downloads, FAQs, and blog articles helpful in your research and planning!

What are you planning for the future? We can help! Give us a call, stop into your nearest branch, or schedule an appointment today!

 

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