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The Banking Basics of a Credit Union

August 11, 2014

This is the second post in our series about Credit Unions. As mentioned last month, Melissa Grosser, lifestyle PR professional in Toronto, is exploring the alternatives to banks, and seeing if a credit union is right for her.

You can read the first article in the series: What is a Credit Union? Uncovering the Financial Institution Alternative


Even though I have been a long-standing client of a typical bank since my early teenage years, as I move further into adulthood, I always wondered the following: Am I getting the best deal here? Is there an alternative that my money should seek a relationship with?

This is an easy question for many young professionals. Being a young professional myself, buying a future home or paying off debt is always on the brain. Even saving a dollar or two a month off of my bank fees brings me excitement. Seriously, it does!

In my mission for seeking other financial institution options, it came to my surprise that credit unions actually offer the same simple services that a large, traditional bank offers. To be honest, before this, I truly believed credit unions only specialized in loans.

The Banking Basics of a Credit Union

Basic services such as opening and maintaining a chequing and savings account at a credit union is a great option for avid savers, who are looking for both variety in how to store their money, as well as ditching those surprise administrative fees. Even better, when you join a credit union, you join as a member. That’s because credit unions believe in co-operative banking – meaning that banking is based on the idea that profits should have a higher purpose. They should be returned to you (members) in the form of great rates and better service. And they should be put back into the community to do good where you live.

As much as I am loyal to my bank of 15+ years, I am starting to test out a credit union for some of my basic banking needs. Here are some things that I learned that will probably pleasantly surprise you too:

1)    You can get a normal debit and/or credit card through a credit union. Just because it isn’t your typical bank, doesn’t mean you aren’t given the plastic hardware. And the card has pretty significant reach too – there are so many surcharge free ATMs that a credit union member can access all over the country!

2)    Credit unions offer a variety of account options to their members. This is great because regardless of how small your savings might be, you won’t be turned away from having the opportunity to store and grow your money at a credit union. To cater to all members, credit unions offer unique banking packages, from basic plans and high-volume value packages to pay-as-you-go options.

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What is a Credit Union? Uncovering the Financial Institution Alternative

July 14, 2014

The following part one for the credit union series is from Melissa, the newest contributor to Thirty Six Months, and a lifestyle PR professional in Toronto. You can find more from her at the Domestic Peach.  She’s on a mission to find out if a credit union is right for her. 


After a few years of settling into the professional working world, paying off educational debts and starting to be a regular saver with every pay cheque, many young professionals start making a point of learning more about financial institution services. As hard working individuals in our 20s and 30s, we may have several years in the workforce ahead. However, it is never too early to start planning how you save your money and plan toward your future. In a way, it is crucial!

What is a credit union

Keeping this in mind, I have spent the first five years working closely with my bank to store, save and invest my money. Most of my experience has been positive, but after questioning some of the limitations and stipulations at my bank, I wanted to look at some alternatives.

One good alternative that I was given the opportunity to learn more about has been credit unions. Up until recently, I was unclear about what credit unions are, what services they provide and how they can help me with planning my future. To be honest, I thought this type of institution was purely a monetary loaning stop. Boy, was I wrong!

A credit union is a co-operative financial institution that is owned and operated entirely by its members. A bank owned by its members? Who would have thought?!

This concept first surfaced at the turn of the century, when ordinary working people had little access to banks. Originally, credit unions serviced individuals who worked in specific fields that truly served their communities, such as trade workers and teachers. Presently, credit union services are available for all individuals, providing them with an alternative to banks.

To learn more about what credit unions have to offer, I had an introductory appointment with a very friendly and informative credit union financial advisor, who gave me a detailed overview on the financial institution. I left my first appointment informed and happy to hear that there are other options out there for me to save, grow and plan my money for the future.

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4 Reasons to Start Investing While You’re Still Young!

July 3, 2014

Living in the moment – and Instagram-ing, Facebook-ing, and Tweeting every second – seems to be the adage of the current “20-something” generation. It’s not always easy to even think about the near future. With this type of mentality comes the risk of forgetting about the long-term and the long, long-term, like retirement.  Trust me, I’ve learned my lessons. This is, by far, the lesson that I preach over and over again! Here are four reasons why you should consider investing ASAP.

Reason #1: Direct Investment

You can purchase stocks through a direct investment plan with a company. With direct investing, you do not have to pay commission to a broker, but you may have to pay a fee to the company. They will buy or sell stocks in pre-determined intervals. These intervals could be daily, weekly or monthly. You can hold on to these stocks as long as you want, but the stocks are bought and sold at average market prices. If you want to transfer the stocks later, you may need to pay a fee to withdraw them.

Reason #2: Dividends

If you invest in a company early in its existence, you can make increasing dividends from that company. As the company grows, so grows your payout. Businesses are offering new stocks every day, and it is your job to get in on the ground floor before prices rise. This is especially important to consider as we see an increasing number of tech start-ups emerging as viable investment options.

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The Advantages of Owning a Home

June 25, 2014

Buying a house is one of the most important, and costly, financial decisions you can make in a lifetime. Even those that scoff at all types of consumer debt are still willing to take out a mortgage to buy a home. There are several benefits of owning versus renting your home, which is why a majority of the world does it. Even after we experienced the housing bubble expand and then burst it is more than apparent that consumers are ready to test the waters again.

Owning a Home

With the stock market booming and interest rates at an all-time low it’s become a no-brainer that taking out a loan is beneficial. The interest you will pay on a home loan is much smaller than it has been historically, making more expensive homes more affordable to potential buyers. This helps drive up home values as well. Leave your money invested in high yield stocks and bonds, and take out a loan while rates are still low. Granted, most people can’t buy a house in cash anyways, which means some type of loan is almost always needed. Just make sure you are able to make the monthly payments on however much you finance, find a loan repayment calculator online to figure it out.

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Let’s do your taxes ( A Giveaway- Closed)

March 19, 2014

Ah, taxes! It’s one thing to  pack all of our receipts and T4’s and head to an accountant, and completely other thing if you tackle doing them yourself. Perhaps it’s the personal finance nerd in me, but I find doing taxes exciting!

Don’t get me wrong, doing your taxes can be a very scary thing, especially if it’s your first time filling them yourself. Most of that fear is most likely rooted in not understanding tax laws. I get it, the code is can make anyone’s head spin, but trust me – it’s a lot less complicated than you think. I’ve been doing my taxes since I was 18, (ok, I went to an accountant twice over the years, but mostly to have them look it over and make sure that I wasn’t missing anything), and I have 3 businesses, rental properties, a freelance income, and investments – imagine how much easier it would be without that stuff.



Getting Started

The most important thing before you prepare your tax return is to make sure that no one is claiming you as dependent on their taxes. More often than not, accountants tell parents to put students on their taxes so parents can get a bigger deduction. You can’t file your own taxes if they have you listed on their returns.


Taking the First Step

The last day that employers had to send out T4 slips was Feb 28th, which means that everyone should have theirs already.

There are 2 ways to doing your taxes: manually by hand  or using tax software like UFile. I personally like using tax software as it helps me remember all the things that I can claim, or need to claim for any given year. This could range from a side project fees, to deductions for medical expenses, and travel related to work. Software programs like UFile do all of the math for you so you don’t actually have to bust out the calculator; and they walk you through step-by-step so that you don’t miss anything. The best part is that they help find deductions that you didn’t even know existed. UFile, is also NETFILE certified, which means that you can file directly from the software without having to print or mail anything.

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How to Budget for Unexpected Expenses

February 12, 2014

This winter has been brutal. Extremely brutal. And I’m not just talking about the extreme cold, but the record snowfall as well. Let’s just say that I’ve spent more time indoors in the last 2 months, than I have in all of 2012-2013 combined.

The problem with trying to avoid going outside, and trying to stay huddled indoors is the little things seem like mountains when you have to deal with them in the dead of winter.

I’m not sure about you, but the winter not only takes a toll on us, but it seems that our properties take a hit as well. And there is nothing we can do but watch the unexpected expenses add up.

I know I’m not the only one who had to deal with busted pipes this winter. The kicker? It was on the one of the coldest nights of the year. The bill to get the repaired was significantly higher than I expected, but I would charge more if I had to work in the cold to fix a broken pipe. Luckily I had a house emergency fund set aside for things like this. If you don’t have a fund already, I really recommend starting one. It doesn’t have to a lot in it, but it saves you from crying with situations like that come up.

Note: this is different than having a house improvement fund for things like doors and windows.

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