Lawn-Care Scams Sprout up in Spring

Spring is here, and lawn-care scams are sprouting like mushrooms after rain. And unlike that brown spot in the grass, they’re not easy to see. Here’s what’s important to know about these scams and how to stay safe.

How the scam plays out

In a typical lawn-care scam, a company will target homeowners with ads, calls and other tactics. They’ll offer to inspect the lawn and provide a free quote for services the lawn requires. When the victim accepts this offer, a date and time will be set for the complimentary inspection.

On the day of the inspection, though, victims arrive home to see a sign posted on their lawn detailing all the work that has already been done on behalf of this company! The victim is billed for the work, and when they protest, the business claims the victim verbally agreed to the services.

This is probably just the beginning of a lawn-care nightmare. The company may continue to send workers to service the victim’s yard, regardless of how many times they say they don’t want or need these services. Failure to pay will prompt the scammer to threaten to call collection agencies. Usually, the victim pays out of fear of having the lawn-care company follow through on their threat.

Sometimes, the scam takes the form of a company doing shoddy work and overcharging for it, not delivering on services or tacking on extra charges and fees without warning.

Avoid getting scammed

Before hiring a lawn-care company, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends taking the following steps:

  • Research the company.Look up the business’s profile on the BBB website or search for its name on the bureau’s list of accredited lawn maintenance companies. Look for any necessary licensing and insurance as well. To avoid signing a “verbal contract,” do not contact a company before doing your research.
  • Ask for a lawn inspection before getting a quote.
  • Get everything in writing.Make sure the contract clearly explains terms of the agreement and for how long it is valid. The contract should also list the quantity, size and types of plants and other materials that will be used by the lawn-care company. Keep a personal copy of anything you sign.
  • Ask for references and pictures of past jobs.  
  • Get specifics on pricing.
  • Ask for receipts for all paid invoices. 

If you’ve been scammed

If you’ve been duped by an unscrupulous lawn-care company, you may have difficulty getting out of contracts or agreements. Report the scam to the FTC  and the BBB. Also contact local law enforcement to ask about suggested next steps.

Don’t get scammed by a lawn-care company! Follow the tips outlined above when hiring a provider and keep your money safe.

Teach Kids to Set Savings Goals

Your child wants a new longboard ($200) or the latest basketball shoes ($120), but it’s just not in the budget this month — or for the next three months. Rather than a flat-out “no,” work with your child to set savings goals and then help them reach them. Here’s how:

Identify the goal

If your child has an item they’d like to purchase, the goal amount would be the purchase price. If the item is exceptionally pricey, offer to match their savings once they get halfway there. Setting a reasonable goal amount will help them see when the end is in sight and provide more motivation to reach the goal.

Make a plan

What will they do to reach the goal? Sit down with your child and discuss ways to earn the money. Do they have a part-time job? Babysit? Are there additional chores they can do around the house to earn more money? Get creative! Together, figure out how much money they can save each week or month and how long it will take to reach their goal.

Set money aside

Make sure your child has a savings account or another method for savings. Spending can often be quite tempting if the cash is easily accessible. If your child is serious about saving, make sure they have a place to put the money away.

High Point Federal Credit Union offers a Youth Savings Account that will help your child get the most out of their savings! Learn more by clicking here.

Follow through

Once your child has reached their savings goal, follow through and allow them to purchase what they saved for. And if you agreed to match their savings, make sure you’re ready to do so, too.

Giving your children the knowledge and help to reach a savings goal is a life lesson that they will carry with them throughout their adult lives. You might even be surprised. Once your child has reached their savings goal, they may decide that the item they originally wanted to purchase isn’t worth the work they put into it and use those savings even more wisely.

Saving Smarts

For the responsible adult who thinks about being prepared for the future, savings are a fixed expense that is built into the monthly budget just like car payments and insurance. For most people, though, this habit does not come naturally. It needs to be acquired and practiced. Teach your kids those saving smarts now when they’re young to help make it a lifetime habit they’ve already mastered by the time they hit their 20s.

The Goal

Give your kids a clear understanding of why saving is crucial to financial wellness and how to make it happen.

Pointers to cover:
  • Why putting money aside each month is crucial
  • How interest and compound interest work
  • Long-term vs. short-term saving
  • Reasons to save

Conversation starters

For kids under age 9:
  • Let’s say you’ve only got $15 and you want to buy a drone that costs $65. You get $5 a week as your allowance. How can you buy that drone?
  • When did you wait for something and find that it was more enjoyable because you waited for it?
  • Can you think of some things that Mom or Dad saves up for?
  • If you earn 10 cents for every dollar you save, how much money will you earn by putting away $5?
For kids over age 9:
  • Are you saving up for anything important?
  • Can you think of some things that Mom or Dad saves up for?
  • Have you ever had to pay for something unexpected? How did you come up with the money?
  • Some things we save for are short-term goals, and others are long-term goals. Can you name some of each kind of goal? How will we save differently for each kind?
  • Do you think it’s smart for Mom and Dad to keep money they’re saving under the mattress? Why or why not?

If you haven’t already, consider setting up a Youth Saving Account for your child, and help them put these saving smarts into action!

For more youth-geared financial activities, visit our Activities & Resources page.

Getting the Most Out of Youth Accounts

Managing money is a foundational life skill. There are so many factors involved and so many open-ended questions at play. How much should you be saving? When is it worth spending more? How do you keep spare change from burning a hole in your pocket? It takes years of discipline and training to perfect this skill, and ongoing self-control to maintain it.

That’s why it’s best to give your kids a head start on money management and saving. As a parent or guardian, remember that the lessons you plant today will take root and blossom, enriching your child’s life for years to come.

Here at Olean Area Federal Credit Union, we understand the enormity and difficulty of this task. In honor of National Credit Union Youth Month, we’re focusing on ways to help make this process as smooth and as simple as possible.

Olean Area FCU is proud to offer a specialized Youth Savings Account that is designed just for kids. You can learn more about it by clicking here.

Ready to open an account for your child? Does your child already have one? Read on for three steps to take for ensuring your child gets the most out of a new or existing account:

Set a goal

Now that your child’s money will be sitting in an account instead of a piggy bank, let her use this opportunity to save up for something big. Sit down with her and discuss what she’d like to save for. You can create a long-term goal, like saving up for college or for a first car. Also establish a short-term goal, like a new gaming console or a hoverboard.

Set a date for your goals, and then set up a savings calendar for illustrating how much money needs to be saved each month to reach the intended target by the designated date. Discuss ways to add to the savings, being sure to include money from birthday gifts, summer jobs, allowances and chores.

Bank together

Whether your child is a first-grader or a teenager, if this is their first time owning an account, they’ll need you to show them the ropes.

Always bring your children along with you when you stop by Olean Area Federal Credit Union to deposit their savings. Show them how it works and let them see the account balance growing. If your child asks you to withdraw money from their account, make sure they see how this translates into a dip into their savings.

For teens, you’ll need to walk them through that first deposit and withdrawal. When they’ve probably got the hang of it, it’s time to take a step back and let them be on their own. They’ll feel like a million dollars managing their account independently.

However, share with your teen that every swipe of their debit card also means a dent in their account balance. Also be sure to warn kids of all ages about security. They should know to never share their account information with anyone, and to keep their debit card in a safe place.

Monitor your child’s activity

Don’t aim to be a helicopter parent, but do keep an eye on your child’s account. If he’s depositing a lot less than planned, ask him where his money is going. If your teen is maximizing his daily ATM allowance, speak to him about money management and impulse purchases.

Your teen’s daily withdrawal limit may need occasional adjustment, so keep a careful watch on spending to see if any modifications are needed.

Remember: Every financial lesson you teach your child today equips them with money management skills for a lifetime.

All You Need to Know About Savings Accounts

Looking for a safe place to grow your money? Look no further than the savings accounts at High Point Federal Credit Union!

Here’s everything you need to know about our savings accounts.

Opening a savings account

Stop by one of our branches or visit the High Point FCU website to open a Share Savings Account. You’ll need basic identifying documents and information along with a minimum initial deposit of just $5. If you’re looking to maximize your earnings on a higher balance, you can open a Money Market Account and earn dividends once you reach a $2,500 balance.

Accessing your funds

If you need to make a withdrawal from your Share Savings, visit a branch location to do it in person, visit our drive-thru or you can access your funds via our 24-hour ATM. You can utilize our digital banking to transfer funds between accounts.

Many financial institutions restrict the number of monthly withdrawals members can make from their savings accounts. At High Point Federal Credit Union, you have unlimited withdrawals from your Share Savings Account! We just hold $5 as your membership interest in the credit union.

If you use a Money Market Account, you are limited to six withdrawals or automatic and telephone transfers each month. This total also includes auto transfers if the account is linked as an overdraft privilege account to cover your checking account. However, you can have unlimited in-person and mobile transfers/withdrawals.

NOTE: Due to hardships associated with COVID-19, there is currently NO LIMIT to the number of transfers members can make whether they are automatic or not (It is unknown when this restriction will go back into place).

Fees and penalties

Banking partners may charge a nominal monthly maintenance fee for savings accounts, but these can generally be avoided by meeting specified account requirements. Savings accounts at High Point FCU have no monthly fee.

Bank and credit union members may be penalized for going over the withdrawal limit on savings accounts. If you go over the six-withdrawal limit in your Money Market Account, your account will be subject to closure by the credit union.

If you overdraft an account, you will be charged the standard NSF fee of $25 for all returned items. At High Point Federal Credit Union, you can sign up for Overdraft Privilege, linking your Savings to your Checking to prevent overdrafts. There is a $2 fee for automatic transfer from Savings to Checking to cover an overdraft.

Higher earnings rate

One of the most advantageous features of a savings account is its interest/dividend rate, which is nearly always higher than the rate of a checking account in that same institution. According to the NCUA , in December 2020, the average checking accounts rate for credit unions was 0.08% APY. The average rate for savings accounts was 0.11% APY.

Explore our Share Savings rates and our Money Market rates by clicking here.

Safety and security

Your money is always safe at High Point FCU. Our credit union is federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration. The funds in your savings account will also be protected from the fluctuations of the stock market.

A savings account can be an excellent place for keeping and growing funds you may need to access in an emergency. Call 800.854.6052, click, or stop by High Point Federal Credit Union to open your account today!

Building A Financial Future Using the Building Blocks Approach

How do you choose what financial information to impart to kids? What’s really important? Perhaps surprisingly, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the most important money lessons actually have nothing to do with money. That’s the central theme of its new report, Building Blocks to Help Youth Achieve Financial Capability. This report, available online from the CFPB, breaks down financial literacy into three skills: executive function, financial habits and norms, and financial knowledge and decision-making. This conclusion comes from a fusion of educational research and social psychology, and it’s an important guide for parents.

The Building Blocks Approach

Financial knowledge and decision-making are the most often included elements in financial literacy. It’s the stuff you know. Financial habits and norms are the behaviors and conditions children come to expect. Some of this can be taught, but it’s mostly a matter of observation and socialization. Kids pick up these habits and norms from watching their parents and other adults.

Most importantly, the skill of executive function can be developed even at ages when most financial knowledge cannot. Executive function is the ability to control impulses, make and stick to plans, direct attention and other related tasks. New psychological research suggests that these are all skills where a form of training is needed; the more we practice paying attention to something, the better we’ll get at it. Best of all, this ability can be developed at any age.

Executive function, in addition to being the most teachable skill in the report, is also the most important. Kids with developed executive function skills will find it easier to learn new information and practice new skills while also positioning themselves for future success. Of all the factors summarized in the report, kids with strong executive function skills tended to have the highest levels of financial satisfaction.

Interested in improving executive function? Here are a few of the report’s recommendations.

1. Practice delayed gratification

Offer young children the choice between a small treat now and a larger one after a short period of time. Slowly increase the time increment between choice and reward. This helps to develop the skills involved in deferring instant gratification in favor of larger rewards later.

2. Planning at playtime

Before a play session, ask your child what toys he or she wants to play with in the next block of time. After your child is done playing, ask him or her to reflect on how well the plan worked. This helps develop long-term planning skills and creates intrinsic rewards for sticking to a plan.

3. Involve your children in plan-making and deciding

Wherever possible, encourage your children to participate in making plans for the household. They might get to pick one night’s dinner, or pick from a few family activities for a Saturday morning. The experience of making decisions, whether in a financial context or not, will help develop those executive function skills.

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