This one is for the kiddos!

April is Youth Month at NCCYou and we have been doing some really fun things!

We want to help you learn how to save for the things you want, and be able to pay for the things you need when you are a grown up. If you open a Youth Account- you’ll get an Earnie backpack full of gifts to help you get started on your financial journey! But first, we want to talk about the best ways to save, share, and spend your money…

The first thing to learn, do you NEED it or just really really WANT it?

The very first thing we should decide, before you begin to earn money that you can spend or save, is the difference between a WANT and a NEED. That might seem like a tough decision for you (and even many adults), but once you understand it, you will have a better chance at being able to get those things you want. A good question to ask yourself is “what is something you NEED?” You might think… A puppy! Candy! But actually the things you really need are food, water, clothes, and shelter. Don’t worry, your don’t have to pay for the things you need right now, but it’s smart to think about them for someday! Your parent(s) will probably want you to earn the money for the things you want by doing chores and helping with things. That’s great! Make a list of those things and you can talk over with them how much money you need and how you will get it. Sometimes you get money as a gift too which is pretty cool.

So, how do you SAVE money?

You made a list of what you want, how much money it takes to get those things, and how to get that money. Now you have your savings goal! Let’s say you want to get a new lego set and it costs $25. That’s a good goal, and you can always add things to it later. Where are you going to save your money? Well, a good place to start is in a piggy bank. You can keep your money safe in there until you can come into NCCYou and deposit it into your account. Remember to write down when you make a deposit and add it onto your balance. When you come and open your account, we will give you a piggy bank that’s clear so you can see your money inside- and her tail wiggles!

You have figured out how to save money, before you spend it on the thing you want, it’s a good time to think about maybe sharing some of it too!

Many people set aside a little bit of their savings to share. Good ideas for sharing are to buy a gift for someone you love, or donate to a charity you care about. If you love animals, a good place to donate some money is to your local Humane Society. Tell some grownups about the things you care about and they can help you decide. Remember to subtract anything you donate from your account balance!

Now comes the part you have been waiting for, it’s time to spend some of the money you saved!

It’s ok to spend your money on something you want if you have worked hard to earn it and saved enough. You can come to NCCYou and withdraw the money from your savings account, just remember to check your balance first and subtract what you are withdrawing. This is what grownups have to do whenever they buy something so they make sure they don’t run out of money.

Now you can look at your balance and decide what your new savings goal will be. If it takes you awhile to save money, that’s ok. Remember, we are always here for you if you have any questions!

The 12 Scams of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, the fraudsters gave to me…

1. Gift Exchange Scams: I’m sure you’ve seen these via email or facebook, the “Secret Sisters” or “Secret Santa” scam where you donate $10 to another participant with the promise of receiving up to 36 gifts in return. I have to admit, I was tempted! Especially in these lonlier-than-usual pandemic times, the thought of spreading gifts and happiness is a powerful temptation. Unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau has warned that it is actually an illegal pyramid scheme, and it provides scammers with at least your name and home address. You’ll never see those gifts or your $10.

2. Phony Shipping Notifications: Again, the thought of receiving anything free from anyone sounds pretty great right now! Or maybe you did some late night online shopping and thought you maybe ordered something you forgot about. (It happens, no judgement.) You get a message, usually via email, letting you know your shipment has been delayed and to click on a link to track your package. You can probably guess what happens from there… information stolen, accounts hacked, no packages and no fun!

3. Fake Charities: There’s nothing like a good cause to get me to whip out my (NCCYou) credit card! Food banks, animal shelters, you name it and I’ll give them money. Which is why I have to be extra aware of fake charity scams. Some things to watch out for are aggressive and high pressure pitches, charity names that sound very close to already established charities, and spammy emails. Watch for an email or website address that ends with .com rather than .org. No legitimate charity will ask for donations in the form of wire transfers or gift cards. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure you are supporting the right place can make sure your money goes where it is most needed.

4. Porch Pirates: (term taken from “HuffPost Life- Top 5 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For This Year.) Nearly 26 million Americans reported having Holiday packages stolen from their doorsteps, sometimes even by the drivers themselves! Some ways to prevent this are to require a signature for delivery, have items delivered to your workplace, or install a camera at your door.

5. Social Media Sob Stories: GoFundMe is a perfect example of a way people raise money for bogus sob stories. Another common way is to plea for help on Facebook community pages. I’ve seen them both, and though I’m happy to help for legitimate needs, if I don’t know the person or if I have any doubts, I point them to a legitimate organization that provides help such as the local shelters or food banks.

6. Fake Classified Ad Listings: Ever scroll through Craigslist and see a gorgeous 3 bedroom home for rent for $600, complete with a green lawn in November? Yeah… so, that’s not real. And smart people fall for it all of the time! I once had a roommate that was tricked into cashing a check and wiring money to a “landlord” out of state for a home that didn’t exist. Beware, if it’s too good to be true, it most definitely is. Vehicles, homes, even pets- the scams can come in the form of all sorts of postings.

7. Gift Card Scams: This happened recently to one of our dear members, and I know she would want us to share her story. She received a phone call from an “anti-virus” software company that claimed she overpaid them for their services years ago and they needed to refund her $30. That seems harmless, right? Well, the representative “over-refunded” her by adding an extra 0 to the amount “accidently” refunding her $300 instead. He had also gotten her account information to process the refund. He proceeded to become distressed, saying he couldn’t reverse the refund and that his job was in jeopardy if he didn’t get the money back. Could she please help him by going to Target and purchasing $300 in gift cards (he’d process the original $30 again.) and send them to him? She asked for his supervisor, who proceeded to try to intimidate her by saying that the representative had a family to support and would most definitely lose his job if she didn’t do this right away. She got as far as the checkout in Target (the “Supervisor” even required she keep him on the phone in her pocket while she purchased them!) but luckily, the cashier recognized what was happening and called their manager. Our local Target has numerous scam attempts like this each day. We applaud our member and appreciate her courage in sharing her story!

8. Romance Scams: there is no more lonely time to be single than the Holidays, I get it! Especially when many of us also won’t be traveling to see friends and family and may be spending the Holidays alone. Another one of our members recently shared a common scam she fell prey to, a romance scam. She was befriended by someone on Facebook who proceeded to strike up a friendship with her, and from there they developed a relationship. The “relationship” continued on for 9 months with the person eventually wanting to come and visit her. He claimed to be in the military (even had his “sergeant” call her to verify) but needed her to wire him money for his plane ticket and would pay her back in person. She sent the money and waited in the airport for a long time, eventually realizing what had happened.

9. Shady Email Scams: Also known as Phishing (not the 90’s jam band), it is a common way that fraudsters use to steal your personal information or place a virus on your computer. Often times the email will come with a warning that a service will be cancelled or an account will be closed if you don’t click to confirm your account or provide them with information. These emails are often from addresses that often look legit and very similar to real ones. Never click on or open a link from an email address you don’t personally know, and if you are at all hesitant, type the web address into your browser to visit the site and make sure it’s real. Look especially for spelling or grammar errors.

10. Bogus Deal Sites or Offers: Ok, I recently almost fell for this one myself! An Instagram ad for a really great deal popped up and I clicked. Ooooh, I wanted that really cool portable greenhouse on clearance! Fortunately, when I got to the page, there were a few clues that it wasn’t legit. The site was poorly made and had many different kinds of products listed that had nothing to do with gardening. The URL didn’t start with https// (watch for that!). Sometimes these sites even get as far as getting you to make a purchase then send you nothing or a fake product. They change business names and contact information and now have your account information or credit card number.

11. Intercepted Data: Don’t do any shopping while on a public Wi-Fi account. Hackers in the area can intercept your data over public networks and get access to your passwords, payment information, and more.

12. The Relative in Distress: I was distressed to see that this is something that actually happens! It is more common with an elderly person falling prey to a phone call from their supposed Grandchild or distant relative saying they are in trouble and need to have money wired or use a credit card. Poor Grandma just wants to help and often loses her money, and some trust, in the process.

So, what can you do? Besides just being informed and careful, there are many extra steps you can take to protect yourself.

-Use your credit card for any and all online purchases. It is much easier to dispute fraudulent charges and get your money back.

-Download and use our free credit card protection app, Cardnav, as an extra level of protection on your card.

-Check your credit report and credit score often. We offer ID Guard Checking which alerts you of any changes to your credit report and also covers you in the case of identity theft.

Please reach out to us IMMEDIATELY if you have any concerns or questions about a possible scam!

Kids these days…

Kids!  You either have one (or more), you know one, or you at least want the ones you don’t know to succeed in life. (You know, the future and all of that.)  But it can be hard to talk to them and teach them about “boring” subjects like money.  Times have really changed since the days of learning how to balance a check register in your 3rd grade economics class.  The next generation won’t be doing much of that- they will be taking advantage of technology and will be doing all of their banking through mobile apps. We had better get ready to provide them with the fundamentals of money management before they find out wrong information or get sucked into predatory lending and misleading marketing online. Sounds scary, we know. But we are here to help you!  In addition to providing our adult members with Financial Education and products that are designed to better their lives, it is our (and every Financial Institution’s) responsibility to make sure that every child has the best chance at a happy and healthy financial future as well.  So, how do we do that?  It can be hard to get them to eat a vegetable or go to bed at a reasonable time, we know.  So we have designed a really cool program to take the burden off of you and get those kiddos excited about saving, sharing, and spending money in a healthy way.

No veggies in the Earnie the Eagle backpack, we promise.

Starting April 1st, we are debuting our new NCCYou Youth Program….. with interactive games, prizes and just all around fun things to get kids excited.  When they come and open their share savings account they are presented with an Earnie the Eagle backpack that has some educational stuff and a super fun map to chart their journey towards reaching their goals!  There will be activities, characters, information, and prizes along the way. A goal in the near future will be to have an “Education Station” set up for kids and adults alike with educational videos and materials available for those questions that you have about money issues and wouldn’t dare ask Wells Fargo the answer to. (You’d end up with three new credit cards and a mortgage you didn’t apply for.)

This bunny won’t be there but we all need to look at him anyway.

And, we are planning a really fun event to kick it all off. We all need something extra fun after that long winter! Join us on Saturday April 4 for an Easter Egg Hunt! There will be snacks (perhaps some veggies, sorry kids), prizes, an appearance by Earnie the Eagle and many many eggs full of treats hidden around our branch locations in both Duluth and Virginia. Please go to http://www.nccyou.com and click on the link to register for your location-we would hate to not have enough so are hoping for an approximate count.

As always, we are here for YOU and here for your kids too! Stop by or call anytime to get those kiddos on the right path to financial success.

Another Gratitude Blog-this one is about those little things!

You can’t swing a snow shovel these days without hitting an article about Gratitude. (And the snow shovels are swinging in Northern Minnesota these days, let me tell ya!) They tell us to slow down, be in the moment, count our blessings and PRACTICE GRATITUDE EVERY DAY. But, it’s the time of year where we all rush around to shop and clean and cook and travel to visit family and friends with high expectations of ourselves and others. We have read the articles and vowed to slow down and practice more gratitude but then there is a snow storm and we struggle to get shoveled out and to places on time, if we can make it at all, school is canceled, we forgot to buy eggs, the kids have a melt down, the pets are going stir crazy and we would be grateful for a few extra minutes to just have the time to think about being grateful. I know, right?? Who are all of these zen people with their gratitude journals and time to write in them?  But here is what I think, start little! For every “challenge” in your life, I challenge YOU to think of three LITTLE things about it you are grateful for… I’ll start, so you know I’m just not another one of those preachy self-help-y people.

I started this blog last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, the day of our first big snowstorm this week. I got myself and my little minivan good and stuck twice trying to get to work. One of the times I blocked the way for a bunch of people in nice cars that have 4 wheel drive and if only I had been behind them, they would have been happy and well on their way. But, no, they were stuck crawling past me or waiting for me to find traction and get the heck back down the hill and out of their way.

Here are three things that I’m grateful for in that situation… 1. None of them saw me swearing and crying so I have a tiny bit of my dignity left. 2. My job and boss are amazing and understanding and are ok with me working from the relative safety of my home instead (ok, I did manage to burn my lunch pizza a little but noone was hurt) 3. Noone was hurt! Someone could’ve been hurt or my car could’ve been damaged but all is well.  4. (I found a 4th thing!) I HAVE a car! I am so fortunate to be able to afford a car that runs and has heat and insurance and gas and so I’m pretty darn lucky.

Now, that wasn’t so hard. I hardly feel stressed out about it at all anymore.

You might wonder what this has to do with Northern Communities Credit Union? Well, aside from us just generally caring about your well being, NCCYou has that same philosophy of celebrating the little things. Every interaction with our members is a little thing that has great importance. We started in 1928 as a place for the city and county employees to own their own money and join together for the greater good of the whole. We are the same today, a place where your money is safe and your best interests are protected by the greater good of the credit union mission. We aren’t big, but we have all of the little things you need to be successful- from our online banking and mobile app, a staff of dedicated professionals that are here to help you and the products you need to get that home, car or retirement fund. You might have financial set backs but we are grateful you choose us to help you get through those little things in life. We are grateful for YOU.

Three days after the first storm, we got another storm that dumped 24 inches of snow in 24 hours. I didn’t try to drive anywhere but shoveling out was NOT the most fun way to spend a day. The dog wasn’t much help but she sure was cute! Just as we were finishing up, the sky exploded in beautiful pinks and reds, almost like a reward or maybe just an apology from Mother Nature. I was sure grateful for that. Whether or not you write them down daily or just try to take a minute to recognize them, we hope you find some things to be grateful for today too.

Identity Theft and Fraud and Data Breaches, oh my! NCCYou has 3 secret weapons to prevent this from happening to YOU!

It seems like a dangerous time to have money. (Good thing I don’t.) Or to borrow money. (This I do.)  The good news is that as a member of NCCYou, we have your back with 3 ways to keep your identity and money safe.  

100 million people were effected by a recent data breach at Capital One.  Equifax, Caribou Coffee, Target, Home Depot and others have had past data breaches where customer information was hacked into and possibly shared.  I’ve personally been lucky so far but you better believe I have these protections in place.

1.  CardNav.  CardNav is a free app and adds another level of security to your cards by letting you decide how and when they can be used, and alerting you when any types of transactions you specify take place. You can even use CardNav to set personal spending limits that help you stay within your budget goals.

Turn cards on or off in seconds.
• Use GPS to restrict transactions to businesses within a designated area.
• Limit card use to specific merchants or purchases.
• Receive real-time, in-app card-use notifications and spending-limit alerts.
• Receive alerts when you’re getting close to any personal spending limits you’ve set.

Go to your app store and download this magic app asap.

2.  ID Guard Checking.  For a $2.95 a month, your checking account at NCCYou can offer you comprehensive credit monitoring 24/7 of over 1,000 databases! You get your own personal fraud resolution specialist that will help you every step of the way until your identity is restored. If your identity is compromised in any way, you can receive up to $10,000 to help pay expenses, help clear your name and recover your identity. I get one handy little email telling me if anything on my credit report has changed, or if they haven’t. It’s really nice to let them do the work for me. I can’t get a good coffee for $2.95 at Caribou but I will save thousands if they have another data breach!

3.  Our Member Account Representative.  I won’t tell you her name but I’ll tell you that this person has an office near mine and I hear her all day long putting out fires for people when their cards have been compromised.  She handles all fraud and disputed purchases as a one-woman money protection FORCE.  She has worked for us for 25 years and believe me, she knows her stuff.  She will have your card cancelled, reordered, and at least provisional money back for you before you can even get through the hold time at your big bank. Unless you “accidentally” forgot to cancel that late night monthly order for diet pills or gave out your card number on a questionable website, that’s on you.  She answers the phone, calls you back, or you can visit her in person. She even keeps an eye on your account personally if you need her to.  THATS the Credit Union difference right there.  

As a member of NCCYou, you are part owner or a financial institution that has YOUR best interests in mind, every time. We have researched how to keep you money and your identity safe. Stop by, visit http://www.nccyou.com, call and let us help.

It’s Adventure Time! 22 must-see quirky Minnesota attractions…

Summer is the time in Minnesota to hop in the car, hit the road, roll down the windows, pop in a CD (wait, do people still use those? Am I revealing my age?) and find some adventures!

Minnesota is proudly a treasure trove of unusual and fun roadside attractions. There are many more than 2o, but this list will get you started. You may have heard of some, some may be in your area, or you may learn about some new stuff to check out the next time you have the itch to hit the open road.

  1. World’s Largest Paul Bunyan, Akelely- There are quite a few Paul Bunyans around the state. But THIS guy is kneeling so you can sit in his hand and pose for a photo. If he was standing, he would be over 60 feet tall!
  2. World’s Largest Ball of Twine (rolled by one man.), Darwin. Someone had some time on his hands. And a LOT of twine.
  3. World’s Largest Boot, Red Wing. Red Wing boots have been a beloved made-in-Minnesota staple for many years. Their store contains a size 638DD boot that weighs over a ton and would be too big for the Statue of Liberty! I don’t know about boots and that dress anyway…
  4. Ed’s Museum, Wykoff. Ed Krueger had a general store called Jack Spratts Food Store in South Central MN and he threw NOTHING away. EVER. He died in 1989 and they made it a museum that is a fun blast from the past.
  5. The Jolly Green Giant, Blue Earth. This huge, friendly guy towers 55 feet about I-90 in Southern MN. It marks the halfway point of America’s longest highway. If you’ve ever driven I-90 you absolutely have felt every bit of this fact.
  6. Quietest Place on Earth, Minneapolis. This is an extreme sound proofed room that was designed for testing appliances and machines for noise. It is so quiet, once you adjust to the lack of sound, you can hear the sounds of your heart, lungs, and joints moving inside your body.
  7. World’s Largest Raspberry, Hopkins. A fairly new addition to the World’s Largest club, this half ton fruit was erected in 2017.
  8. World’s Largest Turkey, Frazee. This 22 foot tall bird sits in West Central MN and has had a troubled past. In 1998, while fixing him up for the annual Turkey Days festival, the Frazee maintenance crew accidently lit him on fire. He blazed to the ground but was soon replaced by a new 3 ton Tom that has over 4,000 fiberglass feathers.
  9. Iron Man Statue, Chisolm. As a throw-back to the boom days of mining on the range, Chisolm built a 36 ft tall statue of an 1880’s miner atop a 50 ft. pile of rusted steel and slag. He iron(no pun intended)ically looks down on a McDonalds…
  10. World’s Largest Free Standing Hockey Stick, Eveleth. Also on the Iron Range, where hockey rules, is this 5 ton, 110 ft long stick- poised to slap the world’s largest hockey puck at 700 lbs.
  11. Deepest place you can go in America, the Soudan Mine, Soudan. After no longer being a viable mine, this “Cadillac of Mines” was closed in 1962 and is now open for tours. You can descend 2300 feet below town on a 90 minute tour to be greeted by the World’s Largest Bat colony of over 10,000 bats. Sounds like a double whammy of claustrophobia and terror to me! But you might dig it. (pun intended this time.)
  12. Pierre the Pantsless Warrior, Two Harbors. This guy might not be the biggest statue of an old white man in MN but he has been standing tall and pantsless since 1960 and that deserves a mention.
  13. Big Ole, Alexandria. Hailing from my home area of central MN, this 28 ft tall Viking stands proud and also pantsless (what was it with those guys?? Minnesota is WAY too cold for that business!) over the Runestone Museum that lends him his fame. I have taken many a photo of friends looking up his skirt.
  14. Runestone Museum, Alexandria. In 1898, a farmer found a 200 lb slab of stone that was covered in ancient runes and dated 1362, which would further the claim that Vikings made it to America before Columbus. The stone has endured much testing and is mostly proven to be the real deal. See for yourself!
  15. World’s Largest Crow, Belgrade. Also near my old stomping grounds is the the 43 ft high crow looming over the small town of Belgrade in central MN. If you push a button, it apparently talks to you. I never tested the theory but plan to next time I’m in the area.
  16. Otto the Otter, Fergus Falls. In the lovely Adams Park stands the adorable Otto, stretching 40 feet long and being climbed on by kids (including me!) for photo ops since 1972.
  17. World’s Largest Pelican, Pelican Rapids. Pelicans are pretty cool birds, and the folks in this small town know it. They built a 15 1/2 foot statue in their honor. I’ve seen her, and if my memory is correct (hope so!) there are many smaller pelicans in this town too, live and statues.
  18. World’s Largest Prairie Chicken, Rothsay. On that West Central MN prairie, people love their birds. This small town built a 9000lb, 13ft tall “booming” (look it up) prairie chicken. I’ve yet to see this noble lady but it’s on my bucket list.
  19. World’s Largest Loon, Vergas. Yet, ANOTHER beautiful bird statue in that area! Do I sense a bird statue day trip in your future? This 20 foot bird stands tall over the 330 people of this small town that is happy to have visitors.
  20. Car smashed by UFO, Warren. In 1979, a policeman noticed a bright light and sped down the highway to see what it was. He was blinded and passed out (doctors confirmed his retinas were burned) and woke up 40 minutes later to find his car had traveled 1000 feet and skidded over 100 ft to a stop on it’s own. Both the car clock and his watch were exactly 14 minutes slow. Is it true? See for yourself.

5 Ways to get the most out of your credit union.

  1. This might be a no-brainer in this day and age, but make sure you visit
    your credit union’s website regularly! This is where you are sure to find the
    most up to date information on hours, events, specials, products, and services.
    There isn’t enough room on your statement or on your mobile app to tell you
    what’s going on. (get out your magnifying glass!) And there are things going on!
    Your credit union is working hard on things to make you happy and successful,
    take a minute and find out what’s up!
  2. In addition to the website, social media is a huge way to get the latest
    info on specials, contests, giveaways, and overall fun gifts and promotions
    going on at your credit union. Your Marketing person (that’s me!) loves
    to give little things away and have fun telling you about our deals. Your credit
    union often has ways to save money and you betcha our Facebook is updated
    with that information. Most credit unions use Twitter and Instagram too, follow us and see!
  3. Consolidate your situation. If you’re like me, you have 27 different
    things going on in 27 different places at all times. That old savings account
    gathering dust in your home town bank since childhood, a 401k from a job
    you’d rather forget, statements coming from all of these and an overwhelmed
    feeling about all of it. Your credit union is designed to have the very best
    options for every banking product you need. And there are big incentives
    for consolidating them all in one place. Wouldn’t it be nice to make just ONE
    phone call or visit ONE website for everything? It takes a little work at the
    beginning but it’s worth it. I’ll let you know how much time I save when I
    get this process finished for myself. Then you can find me napping with all of my spare time.
  4. Come and see us! We hire really knowledgable and geniunely nice people
    who know what they’re doing and would love to help you make sure you are
    getting the best things we have to offer. You might be hanging on to that
    old savings account you got in high school when there is an awesome new option.
    Your auto loan might have come from the dealership who just wanted
    to sell you a car but didn’t have your long term financial health in mind. We DO!
    We give our profits back to you in savings and we have fun doing it. The
    coffee is on and you might even get a fun little gift while saving time and money.
  5. Make sure we have your current contact information. Also a no-brainer, but
    you wouldn’t believe the mail that gets returned and the people who claim they
    “had no idea that was going on!” Returned mail costs money which is less back
    for you! We also share fun things and specials via email- I promise to only email you for important things a couple times a month. Each email is made by a real live person (me again!) so no annoying generic stuff here. Though there HAS been known to be an occasional typo, sorry.
    But most importantly, if there is any fraud on your account we would really
    like to be able to call you asap.

Let us do the hard work and you can get busy saving money and time. I see a nap in your future too…

http://www.nccyou.com