Archive for the 'personal finance' Category

American 1 and Premier Financial to Merge





Contact: Kristi Latoszewski

For immediate release VP, Marketing and Communications

April 25, 2011 (517) 787-6510

American 1 Federal Credit Union and Premier Financial Credit Union to Merge

Jackson, MI American 1 Federal Credit Union (American 1) and Premier Financial Credit Union (Premier Financial) have announced plans to merge in 2011; American 1 being the surviving organization. After months of research and negotiation, the Board of Directors for both organizations has approved the merger. The joining of the two credit unions will result in American 1 serving nearly 50,000 Members in the state of Michigan, with assets exceeding $240 million.

“Premier Financial Credit Union has served the financial needs of our membership for 73 years. In this environment, it’s been challenging to maintain the financial position and growth needed to provide the products, services and locations our members want and need. Our partnership with American 1 will allow us to fulfill our mission and provide the added benefits our members deserve,” stated James Safian, Premier Financial’s CEO.

The merger is slated to be legally complete late summer of 2011, when Premier Financial’s nearly 7,000 member’s accounts transition to American 1. Premier Financial currently offers two locations in the Metro Detroit area. Both of these branches will remain open and American 1 has plans to expand the hours of service for the membership.

“American 1 Federal Credit Union was identified as the ideal merger partner because they are committed to providing superior member service. They have a proven history of financial stability and growth and they are committed to giving back to the communities they serve.” Safian said.

“American 1 Federal Credit Union looks forward to serving the members of Premier Financial Credit Union. This merger is a partnership and a new beginning as both of our credit unions move toward uniting our members, services and operations,” said Dave Puckett, American 1’s President and CEO. American 1 Federal Credit Union is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial institution based in Jackson, Michigan. In 2010, American 1 Federal Credit Union had an outstanding return on assets of 1.72%. The notable results placed American 1 in the top 4% of more than 7,000 credit unions in the United States for net income. American 1 Federal Credit Union offers a wide range of consumer banking services with a specialty in auto loan expertise.

Since 1950, American 1 Federal Credit Union serves over 42,000 members in Jackson, Hillsdale, Washtenaw, and Calhoun counties. American 1 is federally insured by the NCUA. More information, including current financial statements, for American 1 can be found at

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Why credit life/disability is good for everyone

With the Great Recession, there has been a wave of financial industry regulations affecting everyone from small banks to giant investment firms – and credit unions like American 1. The Credit CARD Act, the opt-in regulations on overdraft protection, and now a scary-looking form that wants to scare you from opting out of credit life insurance on your loans.

Credit life works like this: if you die, your loan gets paid off. That’s it. Your family doesn’t have to come up with the payments. Nothing gets taken to court. It saves a giant hassle on your family’s end – and on our, the lender’s, end since we’re still getting paid. Win-win, right?

Credit disability works in a similar way, except if you get sick or injured, your loan payments are made while you’re off work. Accidents happen all the time, and so does sickness. None of it is expected. Disability coverage helps protect you from the unexpected.

We’ve gathered up our members’ best stories on insurance products and sharing them with the review board before this thing becomes law. We’re also urging them to reconsider this law because of its unintended consequences. You can read it for yourself.

The fact is, credit disability has helped a ton of American 1 members. They have peace of mind knowing that, if the worst happens, they don’t have to worry about their loan.

Here’s the thing: no member or member’s family who benefitted from credit life or disability protection ever regretted their decision. It’s not like a family member dies, the loan gets paid off, and the survivors think, “Gosh, why did Uncle Joe get that silly insurance?”

Or a member gets sick and says, “Man, why did I opt to have my loan paid for during this difficult time?” That doesn’t happen. Not ever.

No, these products equal peace of mind. It’s best to have fewer things to worry about when a loved one dies, gets injured, or becomes ill. And no one likes to think about it, but we’re all responsible adults here. Family members die. Family members get sick and have to take time off work. What counts is that we’re ready when the unfortunate time comes.

There’s no sense in scaring your away from valuable protection like credit life and disability. And for us, it helps all our members because we’re not trying to collect on past-due debts. Products like credit life and disability help to keep costs and rates down.

Gift card tips for the holidays

If you still have gifts to buy this week, you may be thinking about gift cards.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers tips on purchasing gift cards – especially considering new rules passed this past summer.

The FTC notes that gift cards must now show their expiration date (if there is one), cards can only charge inactivity fees after one year, and the money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years.

There’s also a difference between retail gift cards, offered by stores and restuarants, and bank gift cards, which are offered by Visa, MasterCard, and American Express for you to spend like a debit card.

The new gift card rules are supposed to help protect consumers – which is good news for anyone who gets a gift card in their stocking this holiday.

Two personal finance resources

One of the basic rules of personal finance is that you have to manage your money instead of letting it manage you.

We found two resources that can help you manage everything from retirement, insurance, budgeting, and loan decisions.

One is, offering budgeting sheets (it sounds like no fun, but having a budget is important), targeted information for different professions, and resources organized by life events – like marriage or starting a business.

CNN’s Money 101 has a ton of links to resources like talking to your kids about money and setting financial priorities – arranged as a step-by-step lesson plan.

In both cases, there’s a ton of handy info for whatever financial issues you face. Even if you want to brush up on best practices, or work on a monthly household budget, both MyMoney.gove and CNN’s site make it easy.

[Thanks to The Simple Dollar for the tip.]

Good advice: open your statements

A bit of good financial advice from Trent over at the Simple Dollar:

Second, read all of your notices. Even though I’m supposedly on the “paperless” plan for several of my bills, I still receive oodles of statements and messages from these companies. Most of them are completely unimportant to me…

After a while, it’s very easy to become numb to all of it. Don’t. Open every one, read it over, and handle it appropriately. Yes, most of them will go in the trash can. Yes, you’ll often feel like you just wasted fifteen minutes of your life.

But for every fifty useless missives that you read, one will be very important.

We can stress strongly enough how important it is to at least look over your statements.

Sure, if you’re a customer at a bank, you probably get gobs and gobs of mail from them every month. Us? We send minimal mail. And you could get even less if you sign up for e-statements.

But even e-statements are important. You may have important noticed posted to your account under the e-statement system, so make sure you check it at least once a month.

The Power to Prosper: 21 day spending fast

Michelle Singletary at the Washington Post proposes a radical idea to get your financial house in order: a 21-day spending fast.

The idea is to purchase only necessities for 21 straight days.

No eating out. No shopping for non-essential items. Just the basics.

“No matter where you were financially, participating in the fast should help you with everything from addressing serious problems to making the small adjustments that keep your finances running well,” Singletary says. “You might even consider doing the fast over and over again, perhaps once a year.”

The benefits range from spending more time with family to seeing how much cash you can stash away for emergencies. Singletary offers budget templates and guidelines to get you started.

And if you’re thinking about getting started tomorrow, “today is tomorrow,” she says.

Finances 101 at

With the credit/financial/economic crisis, Americans started paying more attention to their financial health.

When you’re losing your home, income, or investments, it tends to get your attention, right?

These kinds of issues can lead to a lot of questions, and we heard about from some smart folks in the credit union world. offers a great Knowledge Base section that serves as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about financial topics.
Topics are arranged by categories like “identity theft,” “auto loans,” and “credit cards” – making it easy to find what you’re looking for. also features certain questions/answers, and shoots the most popular up to the top for easy reading.

Some of the posts are super handy, like how to increase your credit score and how bankruptcy affects your tax issues.

The San Francisco-based site was established by the former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and runs a blog and a forum where users can ask detailed questions.

Storage units bad, saving money good


Do you keep things in a storage unit? If so, it could end up costing you thousands of dollars that could be better spent somewhere else.

That’s the lesson behind Wise Bread’s storage unit post.

The conclusion? Storage units are a money, time, and effort sink.

Not only do they cost money to store things you’re probably not using anyway, they also affect the world around you:

Bigger houses are harder to fill up, which may explain why Americans buy twice the number of consumer goods than the citizens of any other first world nation. (Okay, so we’re a geographically huge country, but if we’ve got such big homes, why do we need an additional billion square feet of storage space?) The environmental cost of creating, transporting and finally housing two billion square feet of unused possessions is mindboggling.

If you’re backpacking across Europe for a year, or a member of the armed forces, storage units can make sense.

If, however, you’re using a storage unit to stash away possessions because you don’t have room for them, you might have a problem.

Ask yourself: if your photo albums or boxes of momentos are important to you, why are they out of sight, out of mind?

Use direct deposit to avoid lost/stolen checks

Columnist Terry Savage shares some sobering statistics:

It seems a point almost too obvious to make. Yet, last year, more than 480,000 Social Security checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be reissued. And $64 million in Treasury-issued checks were fraudulently endorsed.

Savage recommends that SS benefit recipients enroll in direct deposit, ensuring that payments will go directly to their account.

Savage says can give more information and guidance on the benefits of direct deposit. We feel that, once you have direct deposit, you’ll never go back to regular paper checks. It cuts a lot of hassle out of the whole process.

Disaster planning: organize your info

Trent at The Simple Dollar blog brings up a point we’ve made before: it’s good to prepare for the worst.

He recommends having a binder with documents listing all your financial, insurance, and legal information:

Even aside from the peace of mind that will come from having this document, there will come some point in your life where having all of this information at hand will come in handy – your house burns down, or your spouse passes away suddenly. During those times of crisis, having all of this data available easily to you will make all the difference in the world, taking a healthy dose of stress away from that painful and challenging moment.

While it takes some time and effort to prepare a “just in case” file, the time and effort saved if something happens is more than worth it.

How do you prepare for the theoretical worst case scenerio?

American 1 Federal Credit Union