Tuesday, September 17, 2013
All GCF Bank customers who were account holders on August 26, 2013 should have received a proxy statement in the mail last week. Your vote is necessary to proceed with our planned merger with Investors Bank. Please cast your vote and return your card promptly, or attend the special meeting of members to vote in person. The details were included in your proxy statement, and also published in last week's issue of GCFlash.
Our Current Rates:
For a listing of our current deposit and loan rates, click here.
The Case for Mutual Funds
October 2008 won't soon be forgotten. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) crashed, losing 2,399.47 points or 22.11% of its market value over a period of eight trading days. The remainder of the year was volatile, with a closing price of 8,776.39.
Quite a dive from 13,043.96 where it opened the year. Baby boomers had to put retirement plans on hold after watching their life savings disappear before their very eyes.
Subsequent dives in 2009, 2010 and 2011 left the average consumer a bit jittery. They were reluctant to invest in a vehicle that could so quickly leave them broke.
Our Federal Reserve Board interceded, keeping interest rates at an all-time low to encourage lending and pumping money back into the economy to spur spending. The newly created money was circulated through the stock markets, halting the dives and increasing its value.
Value. Now there's a relative term.
The DOW has since recovered and priced at 15,534.66 as I write. But what has actually changed from its lows in 2008?
Is General Electric more valuable today, currently trading at 24.41, then it was when it sank to 11.71 in November 2008? Or General Mills stronger today at 49.94 than it was at 25.10 in October 2008?
Of course not. Both of these market stalwarts have survived countless ups and downs, including the Great Depression. A little market slide does not change their management style, marketing strategy or corporate identity.
It does nothing to decrease the value of the company. And when you're buying individual stock, that's your key indicator as to whether you buy, hold or sell.
Unfortunately, investor perception does impact the value of its stock. It dives when outside factors frighten them into clinging to their cash and rises when its value is artificially inflated by pumping freshly printed currency into its coffers.
Trading stocks is a risky venture. It's not a good vehicle for those with a weak stomach.
Yet we all need to invest in our own future. With interest rates remaining at their all-time low, traditional CDs and money market accounts don't offer much of a yield. What's a person to do?
Mutual funds are one option. Started in 1924, the funds are a group of stocks and bonds managed by a professional fund manager. They include a diversified selection that reduces the risk you assume when an individual company is in a downturn.
They typically have a low minimum investment to start, giving those without a deep pocketbook a place to invest. You can usually buy in with an investment of $2,500.
There are different types of funds from which to choose. There are general funds along with those geared toward a particular market sector. Whether you feel good about technology, healthcare, consumables, or the environment - there is a fund out there for you. Some are focused on capital appreciation (retirement planning), others structured to derive income.
Fund managers review the portfolio and replace those in the mix with others performing better when necessary. Their fee for the service is deducted periodically from the overall assets whether or not it has gains in the given period.
Look at the fund performance over the past three, five and 10 years to choose the right one for you. Use an independent financial website to see how it compares against similar funds in its category and against its own benchmark.
Research its fees and expenses. Look for low-cost funds as an indicator of better performance. Many funds today cost less than 10 basis points (0.10 percent).
How old is the fund? What is its growth pattern over that time? Has its management remained stable? A poorly performing fund will oust management in search of someone that can provide desired results.
Next week we'll look at some basic investment strategies. Stay tuned.
September 17, the birthday of the U.S. Constitution, is known as Citizenship Day. It commemorates the formation of our new government, and urges U.S. citizens to remember the blessings of liberty and responsibilities that come with citizenship.
This left me wondering about all the bickering over immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship. Isn't there already a process in place for becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen? Why can't we just encourage the 11 million illegal immigrants already here to follow the same procedure as the 700,000 that gain naturalized status each year?
So I researched the steps to citizenship. As it turns out, there is a method for becoming naturalized. It just takes time, effort, and the desire to be an American citizen.
The first step is to obtain permanent residency, or your green card. This gives you the right to live here indefinitely, work, join the armed forces, start a business and so on. There are certain rights you do not have; including the right to vote, receive government benefits or be protected from deportation.
You can apply for citizenship after five years of obtaining a green card. If you don't, you'll need to renew the green card every 10 years and pay the accompanying fees.
The easiest way to get a green card is to have a relative sponsor you. The relative must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provide proof that you are both related and that they can support you at 125% above the poverty line. The sponsor needs to file an I-130 form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The State Department then determines if an immigrant visa number is available. Once it becomes available, you have to apply to have it assigned. This number allows you to apply for permanent resident status.
Employers can sponsor foreign nationals without a relative here in the U.S. Your skills and talents must be something that contributes to the national interest of the United States to fit into the exceptional category. This includes physicians, scientists, artists or professors.
Others must obtain certification from the Department of Labor. The employer must certify that there are no qualified Americans available to fill the position and that your hiring won't negatively affect the wages of others performing similar jobs. The salary offered must be comparable to that paid in the area for similar jobs.
You may be eligible for a green card if you had to flee your homeland due to life threatening circumstances. Individuals doing so may apply after one year of residence in the U.S.
Each year, over 8 million people are entered into the U.S. Green Card lottery. Applicants register online and pay a registration fee. It's for people who don't fit into the categories already described. 50,000 lucky winners are randomly selected to receive a green card.
Once you have a green card, use it wisely. It can be revoked if you're convicted of crimes or fail to maintain valid residency. Certain rules apply if you'll be out of the country longer than six months.
To apply for naturalization, you must be at least 18 years of age and been a permanent resident of the United States for at least five years. If you're married to a U.S. citizen, you only have to wait three years. There is no time restriction for someone who honorably served in the U.S. military.
You must be a person of good moral character, have a basic knowledge of U.S. government, and be able to read, write and speak basic English. And yes, there is a test. There are also exceptions for the elderly and disabled.
You'll be fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed. You're asked a few questions about current affairs and history. You take an oath, followed by a ceremony.
Congratulations! You are now a citizen of the United States of America.
Despite the grave problems facing this nation, the vast number of people wanting to call the U.S. home tells us something. Every nation faces difficult times, here we can vote our mistakes out of office. We can voice our opinion. We can worship as we believe. We can become property or business owners.
Our Constitution assures us liberties that citizens of other nations die trying to achieve. Let's honor this day by recognizing what makes us such a great nation and forgetting about the problems we face. We can get back to that tomorrow.
Tip of the Week
Our police officers are the first to respond in an emergency. They're the ones you call for help, protection, dispute resolution, or anything else when you may not be sure where to turn. Make an effort to show your appreciation on Saturday, September 21, for Thank a Police Officer Day.
GCFlash is a weekly e-mail sent only to its listed customers and associates free of charge. GCFlash informs customers of special product offerings which may be of interest, current interest rates on both deposit and loan products, selected financial news and other financial tidbits. GCFlash is intended to supplement the more comprehensive information listed on the GCF Web site at http://www.gcfbank.com.GCFLASH PRIVACY STATEMENT
GCF maintains your e-mail address in a confidential and secure database along with much of your other account information, such as mailing address and telephone number, etc. Before aggregating our e-mailing list each week, we filter out any duplicates. In most cases, this inhibits the unintended e-mailing of multiple copies of GCFlash to a single e-mail address. However, because these account records are kept by both individual and account, there is a chance members of the same household could each receive a copy of GCFlash or any other transmission at the same e- mail address - resulting in multiple copies. For example, a husband and wife that both have accounts with GCF may both receive a copy because the names are different but listed at the same e-mail address. This is similar to the manner in which each individual may share a common telephone number. To handle this situation, GCF recommends you simply delete any extra copies of GCFlash as this will ensure that ALL individuals receive any future promotional mailings, which might only be targeted or offered to specific accountholders meeting certain criteria. GCF has the capability to suppress customer e-mail addresses so they are omitted from our transmission list. If you would rather have a specific household member's e-mail address suppressed in our electronic database, simply send us a reply, as stated below, and indicate the accountholder for which you would like to have e-mail suppressed. Please keep in mind that this suppression will mean that NO future e-mails are sent, including special promotional offers. If you have any questions about this process or need additional information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to be removed from this electronic mailing list, click this link to send us an email to unsubscribe. Please note, removing your name from our electronic mailing list means GCF will send NO FUTURE NEWS or SPECIAL OFFERS.
Banking With Us