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Past eNews Articles

DIY Lawn & Garden Projects

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The spring weather has finally arrived and it’s time to get your lawn and garden in shape! We’ve put together some simple, fun lawn and garden projects that everyone can enjoy.

Build a Backyard Fire Pit

This popular trend for homeowners across the country is an easy DIY lawn project that makes your house the hotspot to spend summer evenings with family and friends!

Pick the location: First you want to check with your local municipal authorities to make sure it’s legal to light an open fire in your neighborhood. Next, decide on the perfect spot for your pit. Make sure you leave room to walk around the outside circumference and that it’s not close to any potential fire hazards (i.e. plants, fences, or buildings/structures). Remember that the wind will blow the smoke around so keep the fire pit a good distance from open doors and windows.

Choose your wall materials: Decide whether you want to use cement blocks or bricks for the walls. Place a ring of blocks or bricks down to get an idea of the size and shape of your pit before you start digging (approximately 4 feet in diameter).

Begin to dig: Make a circle in the ground around the outside to mark the circumference of your pit. Move your blocks and dig a 6 inch deep trench following the ring (the sides of the trench want to be straight and it should be wide enough to fit the blocks).

Add Gravel: Fill in the trench with 6 inches of gravel and pack it down with your foot until it’s compact and level.

Build the wall: Lay the first block on the gravel ring and make sure it’s level. Continue placing the blocks until you complete the circle, making sure they are level and fit closely together. Begin stacking the remainder of the blocks on top of this foundation by applying masonry adhesive with a caulking gun. On the second tier, you want to stagger the blocks over the first level. After completing the second tier, fill the pit with 6 inches of gravel to help add support and act as the surface for the fire to burn. Add a third and fourth tier of blocks to complete the wall.

Finish the job: Put a cap along the top of your wall by gluing the blocks on top with the masonry adhesive you used for the rest of the structure.

Container Gardening

An easy and inexpensive way to give your flower gardens some extra character this year is by using old items for flower containers in place of ordinary flower pots. Below is a list of items you can find around your house that make great flower containers. Just add soil, flowers and a fresh coat of bright or bold paint if you’re looking for some added color!

  • Painted wooden box
  • Old watering can or oil can
  • Heavy decorative dinner glasses
  • Galvanized steel tub or wooden barrel (you can also use the barrel tipped on its side)
  • Fountain or bird bath (fountains with 3 or 4 tiers create a great garden center piece)
  • Grandpa’s wooden toolbox
  • Wheel barrel or old red wagon
  • Maple Sugaring buckets
  • Old mailbox
  • Pair of rain boots

Painted Vegetable Garden Rocks

If you can’t get the kids to help plant the vegetable garden, you can keep them busy with this adorable but very useful vegetable garden project. All you need is several medium sized rocks (approximately 5- 6 inches in length and 3-4 inches in diameter), paint and paint brushes. Give the kids a list of the vegetables you have planted in your garden and let them paint and label each rock with a different vegetable. When they are finished, you have labels for each row/section of your vegetable garden that are both functional and attention-grabbing at the same time!

Youth Savings Challenge Winners

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During the month of April, every youth member (age 17 and under) that made a deposit into their Share Savings Account was entered into a drawing to win one of three $100 prizes. The $100 prizes were deposited into the winners’ savings accounts in the beginning of May. Learning the importance of saving at an early age helps our young members avoid financial challenges later on in life.

Among this year’s winners was James Gultekin (pictured left). James says, “I am happy I got the $100 dollars. I will spend some of the money this summer with my Grama and save the rest. My Grama started my savings account. She puts $10 a month in a savings account for each of her 6 grandchildren. Thank you again. I was so excited I told all my friends.” Congratulations, James!

Evan Popp (pictured far right) and Ohan Fillbach (pictured right) were also winners of the $100 prizes. VSECU participates in the Youth Savings Challenge in an effort to engage young members in understanding an essential component of personal finances, saving. It’s important to discuss money matters with your children at a young age. We hope that all three prize winners will continue to make smart financial decisions and save for their futures.

Enjoy Vermont's State Parks

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There are so many ways to enjoy the summer in Vermont. With the onset of warmer weather, you’re probably thinking about hiking, fishing, boating, swimming, and biking with friends or family. If you are looking for something to do outdoors, Vermont’s state parks can offer something special to almost everyone.

The Green Mountain State provides its residents and visitors with spectacular waterfalls, mountaintop views, and luscious forests. For hikers, the Parks Department picks Mt. Ascutney, Gifford Woods, Underhill, Smugglers Notch, and Branbury state parks as its favorites.

If its paddling that you’re interested in, you should check out Waterbury Center, Camp Plymouth, Burton Island, Lake Carmi, or Wilgus state parks.

Other amenities that you can find among the parks are cabins, picnic pavilions, boats, kayaks, and camping sites. You can check which parks have these features by visiting this map.

There are day activity fees at many state parks and season passes are available. Remember, if you’re 62 or older, you can visit your town clerk’s office and pay $2 for a lifetime individual pass. Check out these and other ways you can purchase a park pass.

The state’s park service also offers a smartphone app for those of you who are always on the move (iPhone app; Android app). The app can help you look for parks in your area as well as select a park to visit based on the activity you choose.

Visit the Vermont State Parks site to find out more about any of the park locations:

VSECU Supports Wilmington in Irene Rebuilding

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BRATTELBORO, VT—VSECU, the only state-wide credit union for all Vermonters, has not only expanded its branch access to Southern, Vermont, but has expanded its gifting with a $10,000 contribution to help finish the final phase of a downtown Wilmington project.

The gift from VSECU along with a $10,000 grant from The Wilmington Fund VT will be used to pay for lighting and other completion work in a newly constructed parking lot and green space in downtown Wilmington. The Wilmington Fund VT also contributed an additional $5,000 in 2012 for the parking lot itself in addition to the $10,000 match. The project is part of Wilmington’s Long-Term Community Recovery Plan resulting from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Enhanced Call Center Features

We are excited to announce call center enhancements that are rolling out on or around April 15th. These changes will allow the VSECU call center to better meet your needs and you will still be connected with the same Member Service Consultants you have always spoken with, right here in Vermont.

We are always searching for opportunities to improve member service and increase efficiencies. Currently, all phone calls are routed to a single queue to wait for a Member Service Consultant. Sometimes the wait is lengthy for simple questions and transactions, while those requesting loan approvals may be transferred several times or may require a return call to speak with a specialist.

When the new system is implemented, members will be routed to consultants that specialize in their specific areas of need. In some instances it may even be possible to be approved for a consumer loan without being transferred to a different consultant or requiring a return phone call.

While the new system routes more complicated requests to specialists, the general queue is shorter, allowing for quicker responses for basic requests. As always, the fastest way to complete basic transactions is by using Online Banking or the Automatic Access by Phone service.

Please listen carefully to the new menu options and select the option that most accurately describes the reason for your call. Although there will be more menu options than before, waiting to select the correct option will guarantee you receive the fastest service for your needs.

If you have any questions or comments please contact us at 802/800 371-5162.

Protecting Your Wallet from Auto Claims

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GAP Insurance for your Vehicle

In today’s automobile market, a vehicle may begin to depreciate the minute it is purchased. Typically, a vehicle’s outstanding loan balance is higher than its Actual Cash Value (ACV), especially during the first few years of the loan. So what happens if your vehicle is totaled or stolen? Have you ever heard of the term “upside down?”

Insurance settlement is based on the ACV of the vehicle not the loan balance you have with your lender. GAP (guaranteed asset protection) insurance will pay for the out of pocket or “upside down” amount if your loan balance is higher than what your vehicle is worth.

For example:

Vehicle Actual Cash Value: $11,000.00
Insurance Deductible: $1,000.00
Insurance Settlement: $10,000.00

Loan balance: $16,000.00
Insurance Settlement: $10,000.00
Deficiency Balance You Owe: $6,000.00
You Owe: $0

VSECU offers GAP insurance on any new or existing auto loan. The cost is approximately $250 per policy during the life of the loan. On a four year loan this added protection can cost as little as $5 per month and can be rolled into the monthly loan payment.

The GAP benefit not only provides the difference between the loan balance and vehicle value, but will also cover the $1,000 deductible and $1,000 towards the purchase of a new car if you finance it with VSECU.

Mechanical Breakdown Protection

Statistics show that 80% of all repairs come after your factory warranty has expired. Did you know that the standard American automobile has between 14,000 – 15,000 parts? If your vehicle broke down would you be able to pay in cash for the repairs? How would you get to work when your car is being repaired?

VSECU also offers Mechanical Breakdown Protection (MBP) for your vehicle repair needs. This coverage is designed to keep you and your vehicle on the road no matter where you travel in the United States. This protection has no deductible, and has 24/7/365 emergency roadside service. Mechanical Breakdown Protection includes car rental allowance and these additional services:

  • Flat Tire Assistance
  • Towing
  • Battery Jump Starting
  • Lock-out Service

Last year VSECU saved members who purchased Mechanical Breakdown Protection $23,639.39 in car repair bills.

If you would like to add GAP or MBP to your new or existing VSECU auto loan please contact a Member Service Consultant for more information at 802/800 371-5162.

Highlighting Vermont Cooperatives

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We know you’re a member of at least one Vermont co-op, but do you belong to others? Vermont has a long history with cooperatives: the first milk co-op in the state was established in 18951 and our oldest consumer co-op began in Adamant in 1935 (and it’s still going!).2 Coops offer memberships in a variety of industries. There are consumer coops that purchase goods like food and books, utility coops that purchase power, credit unions that provide banking services, housing coops for purchasing residences, agricultural coops for items including dairy and crops, and worker coops where the employees own and control the businesses.

We’ve highlighted a few of our state’s coops to give you a small taste of what’s out there.

Energy Co-op of Vermont


In the late 1990’s, the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation received a federal grant to develop a five-year business plan for the Vermont Consumers’ Energy Co-operative. The cooperative was designed to take advantage of opportunities created by high energy prices, diminished competition among fossil fuel dealers, threats from probable deregulation of Vermont’s electric utilities and reduced state support for energy efficiency programs.

The cooperative acquired a local oil dealer in July 2000 and began delivering heating oil and kerosene three months later. Now known as the Energy Co-op of Vermont, they deliver heating oil kerosene and wood pellets and maintain, replace and repair heating equipment for 2,500 members and customers in northwestern and central Vermont.

To help members reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, the Energy Co-op began installing efficient heating systems in 2003, delivering made-in-Vermont wood pellets in 2008 and marketing solar hot water systems in 2012. As a result, Co-op members have cut their heating oil use by about 130,000 gallons a year. In the future, the Co-op hopes to offer home energy improvements to help members lower their home energy bills and reduce oil use even more.

Mad River Glen


Mad River Glen became one of Vermont’s first major ski areas when the Single Chair began carrying skiers to the top of General Stark Mountain in 1948. From the very beginning, Mad River Glen has been unique, a place where skiing is a sport not an industry, working with nature not against it. Mad River Glen began a new era in 1995 when its skiers came together to form the Mad River Glen Cooperative. The Cooperative works to fulfill a simple mission:

“… to forever protect the classic Mad River Glen skiing experience by preserving low skier density, natural terrain and forests, varied trail character, and friendly community atmosphere for the benefit of shareholders, area personnel and patrons.”

In an age when the ski industry is becoming increasingly consolidated and homogenized, America’s only skier-owned major mountain bucks the trend by remaining independent and preserving a brand of skiing that exists nowhere else.

Cabot Cheese


In 1919, farmers from the Cabot area figured that if they joined forces, they could turn their excess milk into butter and market it throughout New England. Ninety-four farmers jumped on board – at the cost of $5 per cow, plus a cord of wood to fuel the boiler. These farmers purchased the village creamery (built in 1893) and began producing butter under the Rosedale brand name.

Over the next two decades, as the nation’s population flocked to urban areas, Cabot’s farmer-owners thrived by shipping their milk and butter south. While the national economy shifted away from agriculture, the Vermont economy was still largely based on dairy farming.

1992 was a pivotal year in the company’s history as Cabot’s farmer-owners merged with the 1,800 farm families of Agri-mark, a southern New England co-op dating back to 1918. Together, the combined companies boasted more than 1,500 farms, four processing plants and a large product line. Meanwhile, Cabot cheddars began an impressive run in awards competitions, winning every major award for taste over the next few years.

Today, Cabot is owned by over 1200 farm families from every state in New England and New York. And as a cooperative, 100% of the profits are returned to the farmers.

King Arthur Flour


King Arthur Flour is a worker cooperative, which means that every employee owns a stake in the company. Founded in Boston in 1790, it’s America’s oldest flour company. Henry Wood began importing European flour to Long Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts with the goal of providing high-quality flour for bakers in the fledgling United States. In 1896, the company Wood founded gave its product a new brand name: King Arthur Flour. Their new, U.S.-grown flour was introduced at the Boston Food Fair.

Fortunately for Vermont, in 1984, the then-owners Frank and Brinna Sands moved the company from Massachusetts to Norwich, Vermont, where the company is headquartered today. When the Sands decided to retire, they sold the company to the employees and started an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

The employee-owners have embraced their coop culture, stating on their website: “As an employee-owned company, we’re not beholden to outside shareholders who care only about the bottom line; we have the freedom to emphasize other values, too, like social and environmental responsibility, and the wellness and satisfaction of our employees as whole people. The ability to live these values, through the hard work and dedication of our employee-owners, is an important part of our culture and our ongoing success.”

Hunger Mountain Coop


Hunger Mountain Coop is a natural foods cooperative that offers natural products to its over 6,500 members and the Central Vermont community as a whole. In addition to providing healthy food choices, the Coop is a community resource that promotes nutritional awareness, local sustainability and environmental responsibility throughout Central Vermont.

The Coop began as a pre-order service in the late 60’s, when a group of neighbors joined together to buy bulk groceries. When the orders became large enough, the members voted to open a storefront in Plainfield. The Plainfield Coop is still operating today. After a few years, the store was too small for the needs of all its members, so a new storefront was opened as a separate operation in Montpelier. This was the birth of Hunger Mountain Coop as we know it today.

Today, Hunger Mountain Coop is supported by its Member-Owners and employs over 160 Vermonters. The Coop has enjoyed steady growth since 1972, experiencing over $20 million in sales annually. The Coop remains dedicated to its Mission of providing healthy and nutritious food to its Member-Owners and the surrounding community, and gives back thousands of dollars each year to local organizations, non-profits, schools and other groups.

There are obviously too many coops in our state to highlight here. Are you proud of a coop that wasn’t featured? Share the love on our Facebook page.



Five simple moves after New Year’s Day can make tax filing easier

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There’s nothing fun about paying taxes. But by taking these five steps in January to organize your paperwork, you could avoid getting frustrated, frazzled, and perhaps befuddled come tax time.

1. Make a copy of your 2011 tax return and attachments. With this to guide your 2012 tax prep, you’re less likely to forget a source of income or a deduction.

2. Collect the tax IDs you’ll need. You’ll want your dependents’ Social Security numbers and the SSN of anyone you employed (e.g., a babysitter, housecleaner, or nanny).

3. Start a file folder labeled “Income.” Put in it the following tax forms you’ll receive in January:

  • W-2s and 1099-MISCs from employers
  • 1099-INTs reporting interest income
  • 1099-DIVs reporting mutual fund or stock dividends
  • 1099-Bs reporting brokerage transactions

4. If you itemize, start another folder labeled “Deductions.” Some of the information that goes here will come by mail; the rest you may have to dig up yourself.

  • 1098s reporting interest you paid on mortgages and equity loans (also real estate taxes, if included in your monthly mortgage payment)
  • A receipt for real estate taxes if you paid them yourself
  • A copy of your W-2s showing state and local income taxes you paid
  • A receipt for personal property tax from your town or the taxing authority
  • Receipts for charitable donations, including mileage
  • Receipts for medical expenses, including mileage
  • Receipts for bills incurred while job-seeking

5. Rev up your retirement saving. There’s still time before April 15, 2013, to contribute to a 2012 Traditional IRA or Roth IRA. You can put aside up to $5,000 or $6,000 if you’re 50 or older, although income limits may apply. (For details, search “IRA Contribution Limits” at Don’t have an IRA yet? Ask us about our insured IRA choices.

VSECU does not provide tax advice. We recommend consulting a qualified tax professional to determine how tax laws may apply to your situation.

Save or shred?

“The average person spends one to two hours a week looking for things, with 80% of what they sift through belonging in the trash can.” That’s a professional organizer speaking – someone who tries to help clients get ready for tax season. The trouble is, most of us don’t know what to can and what to keep. Here are some tips:

You should save:

  • Tax returns and supporting documents for the past six years
  • Receipts that support your tax deductions
  • Year-end account statements
  • Deeds and car titles
  • Wills and powers of attorney
  • Medical directives
  • Life insurance policies
  • Professional licenses or certificates
  • Pension and retirement plan documents

It’s usually okay to shred:

  • Tax returns that are more than six years old
  • Credit card and bank statements that you can look up online
  • Debit and credit card slips
  • Old utility bills

Many advisors suggest that clients scan documents they need to keep, and store them on a flashdrive or CD-R, or “in the cloud” with a storage service. Dropbox and iCloud, for example, allow you to store password-protected files of a certain size free on a remote server, which you or an authorized user can access from anywhere.

Walloped by winter weather? We can help

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Hurricane Sandy’s swath of destruction showed how mean Mother Nature can be. Here in northern New England, Old Man Winter can be just as brutal, dropping snow-laden tree limbs onto rooftops, sneaking under shingles to soak the ceiling below, driving furnaces into nervous breakdowns, and turning perfectly good cars into ice skates.

Fortunately, you have a good way to cope with an unexpected winter expense. You’re a member of VSECU.

Credit unions are the best place for borrowing, as Money magazine reported a year ago1. As a not-for-profit cooperative, we usually offer better rates on personal loans, auto loans, and home improvement loans than for-profit banks can. We’re especially proud that in last year’s Northeast U.S. Bank & Credit Union Customer Experience Survey, credit unions outscored banks by nearly 30 percentage points in the category of “Doing What Is in Your Best Interest.”

In addition, because we’re local we can make quick decisions. In most cases, we’ll respond to a member’s loan request within hours. That’s important if you need a roof fixed or a furnace replaced right away.

Life is unpredictable. Fortunately, we’re not. If you ever need financial help, just give us a call, 802/800 371-5162.

1 Ismat Sarah Mangla, “Yes, You Can Dump Your Bank,” Money, January/February 2012

Student LIFT award recipients announced! A children’s book is born.

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Earlier this year VSECU developed Student Loan Independence for Today (LIFT), a loan re-payment program, to help lift the burden of student debt. Unlike a college scholarship that typically pays a lump sum in advance of completing higher education, VSECU wanted to award individuals who have already proven their commitment to their education. The award is designed to help reduce the financial stress of making student loan payments while struggling to make ends meet, looking for a job, managing monthly cash flow or trying to take care of other financial responsibilities.

There were 114 applications considered for one of three awards in the categories of Essay, Service to Vermonters and Financial Literacy.

VSECU Donates $10,000 to ReBuild Waterbury

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VSECU has donated $10,000 to ReBuild Waterbury to support its work helping individuals and homeowners rebuild after flood damage from Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

VSECU’s Community Contributions Committee made the allocation recognizing the work ReBuild has done to date. “And we want to ensure that the work continues,” said Jana Bagwell, committee chair. “We are part of the Waterbury community, too.”

VSECU had a branch office at the State Office Complex in Waterbury which was damaged by the flood. Staff from VSECU pitched in with the cleanup efforts in the community and then set up shop in a temporary office in an RV on Park Row for several months. It was important for VSECU to lend a hand and to maintain its service to members in Waterbury in their time of need, said branch manager Don Fair. In January, a new permanent VSECU office on South Main Street opened with three employees.

ReBuild Waterbury is a special project of the non-profit Revitalizing Waterbury, established in October 2011 to help those with flood-damaged homes in Waterbury, Duxbury and adjacent communities complete repairs and help return residents to their neighborhoods.

ReBuild Waterbury Chairperson Theresa Wood said VSECU’s contribution comes at a critical time. “This is exceptional support as we complete our work and near our fundraising goal,” she said.
ReBuild is approaching $900,000 in fundraising that has gone to assist more than 100 flood-affected local households.

Wading through credit card bills from holiday shopping and dreaming of a vacation?

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Tired of wading through the credit card bills from your holiday shopping? Waiting for your tax refund to help replace savings you dipped into to make it through the holiday season? Wishing you could still take a vacation? There is an easier way to plan for the gift-giving season and get away on a vacation too – take advantage of the special saving accounts at VSECU.

Special saving accounts are savings accounts that allow you to save for your holiday purchases, vacation, property taxes… anything really. And at VSECU they earn monthly interest! You can deposit money into the account on a reoccurring basis over the next year and you’ll have what you need for the next holiday season or to go on a relaxing vacation.

Special savings accounts are more flexible than traditional “club accounts.” With a special savings account you can change the frequency and amounts of deposits or even stop them if needed. You can access your funds at any time without penalties for using them early or using them for something other than the original intended goal. VSECU special savings accounts earn interest monthly, and on a tiered structure that pays the highest annual percentage yield up front!

With a special savings account you won’t have to worry about starting the New Year with holiday shopping credit card bills and you might even have enough to take that vacation. So go ahead, make your holidays a little brighter and reduce your stress by planning ahead for next year. Stop by any of our branch locations or open your special savings account online today.

VSECU Members Decide Fate of $10,000 Charitable Gift

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Each year VSECU, a credit union for all of Vermont, sets aside a budget to support communities and charities that bring greater value to Vermonters. This year the VSECU Board of Directors asked their membership to help decide where they should direct $10,000 from the gifting budget.

VSECU Supports CVCAC’s “Pathways to Prosperity” Project

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VSECU is proud to have sponsored the Central Vermont Community Action Council’s new Barre campus project with a three year grant totaling $22,500. Read more about this project in CVCAC’s press release below.

Ceremonial Groundbreaking takes place for Central Vermont Community Action Council’s New Campus.

October 17, 2012 – Board President Michael Sherman and Executive Director Hal Cohen, joined by Lt Governor Phil Scott and VT Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz, celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking of Central Vermont Community Action Council’s (CVCAC) new campus on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. When complete, the campus will include a 25,500 square-foot two story building.

According to Cohen “It’s a great project on so many levels.” The redevelopment of the two-acre property will allow Community Action to centralize many of its staff and programs under one roof so it can offer integrated, wrap-around services, resources and training to better help people create lasting economic security for themselves and their families. Highlights of the facility will include a new food shelf and job-training kitchen plus classrooms and a resource center for skill building, job hunting, and financial and business planning. The project will also bring an economic boost to the city of Barre by securing more than 100 jobs in the city’s downtown and by revitalizing a commercial neighborhood.

Serving over 18,000 Vermonters each year, Community Action’s mission focuses on three areas: 1) alleviating the suffering caused by poverty by ensuring that basic needs are met for food, heating fuel, and safe housing 2) moving people out of poverty by helping them build skills and access resources and opportunities to create self-sufficient lives with services such as weatherization, workforce development, Head Start, micro business development, credit and finance education, and transportation 3) advocating for economic opportunity for all Vermonters.

Scott and Markowitz are serving as honorary co-chairs of the “Pathways to Prosperity” campaign to raise $1.5 million from private donors to help finance the project. So far the campaign has quietly raised over $600,000 from major donors and expects to kick off a community wide campaign in spring 2013.

The overall cost of the project is estimated at $5.2 million. An $800,000 grant from the Vermont Community Development Program was used last year to help purchase the property when the former owners, P&S Furniture, relocated to Main Street.

A construction contract was recently awarded to E.F. Wall and Associates of Barre, and work has already begun. Three derelict warehouse buildings have already been removed from the site which is just off Granite Street. The remaining 11,300 square foot building is above the floodplain and will be remodeled with a 12,350 foot addition added to create an “L” shaped building which will face Main Street. The project is scheduled to be completed July 2013.

Photo: CVCAC Executive Director Hal Cohen and VSECU Community Contribution Committee Chair, Jana Bagwell

Putting Your Debt in Focus

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If your monthly income, less your monthly expenses, doesn’t equal a figure you’re excited to see, it might be time to get your Debt In Focus. At VSECU we offer a free, anonymous online tool to help you get your monthly spending on track. Answer a series of questions about your income, debt and other expenses and in just minutes you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt and build a budget.

Debt In Focus, managed by SavvyMoney, was created by Credit Union experts and the Filene Research Institute to provide you with suggested personal action strategies you can count on to help keep your finances moving in the right direction. Debt to income ratios, debt payment schedules and timelines to pay off your debt sooner are just a few of the features offered with this tool. All information you enter will be kept anonymous and confidential and you will not be required to disclose any sensitive information. If you choose, you may elect to be contacted by a VSECU Member Service Consultant to further review your information.

Watch this video from SavvyMoney about the Debt In Focus tool:

If your goal is to pay down debt, increase savings or just make the month-to-month a little more manageable try this free online service today. If you prefer, you can always meet with a Member Service Consultant to go over your personal finances. VSECU offers many ways to help with debt consolidation and has a variety of loan options that are right for you.

To begin your free and anonymous personal financial analysis, click here.

Co-op Celebration!

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Celebrate Cooperatives and International Credit Union Day with VSECU at any…

Get Your Kicks at Age 66

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Baby Boomers are reaching their full Social Security age with big plans for retirement. We’re ready to help.

This year the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation will blow out 66 candles, the age at which most are eligible for a full Social Security retirement benefit. That extra income will help many Boomers transition from a full-time job to part-time work or total retirement—and a new set of lifestyle challenges.

If you’re part of the generation born between 1946 and 1964, it’s a good idea to start mapping this new financial landscape as early as you can. For example, you’ll want to think about:

  • How will you spend the time you used to put in at work? If you’re in good health, you have a lot of options, including volunteering for civic or charitable roles.
  • Will most of your debts be paid off?
  • Will you spend less on some things, such as gas, parking, or clothes?
  • Will you spend more in other areas, such as travel, hunting or fishing, golf, helping elderly relatives, or buying things for grandkids?
  • If you own multiple vehicles, will you need them all? You might consider reducing maintenance and insurance bills (and generating extra cash) by selling a car, boat, four-wheeler, or snowmobile you don’t plan to use much.

Planning a successful retirement depends, in large part, on making the most of your money. It’s never too late to sit down and start mapping out how your money will work for you during your retirement years. We’re ready to help.

At VSECU we offer retirement planning services through Members Financial Services. Brian Bishop is a financial advisor who can help you reach your financial retirement goals so that you can experience the lifestyle you dream about.

So Happy Birthday, Boomers! We hope you can sit back and relax and enjoy your dreams!

VSECU Supports the Vermont Foodbank

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With the current economic conditions and a year of ongoing recovery efforts from hurricane Irene, it has become more imperative that Vermonters continue to band together to help those in need.
One of the pressing issues in our communities is the growing need for food.

VSECU has been a longtime supporter of the Vermont Foodbank and we are very excited to be participating in a unique sponsorship over the next three years to help Vermonters in need of food assistance. VSECU will be donating $120,000 over a three year period to power one of the Vermont Foodbank trucks. The Foodbank fleet feeds as many as 86,000 Vermonters in need of food assistance.

On July 3, 2012 VSECU unveiled two newly wrapped vehicles promoting the three year partnership between the organizations. Steve Post, Chief Executive Officer of VSECU and John Sayles, Chief Executive Officer of the Vermont Foodbank were present, along with staff and board members. Both CEOs spoke and VSECU presented the Vermont Foodbank with the first installment of the three year pledge. Later that day, both the VSECU minivan and the Foodbank truck participated in the Montpelier Independence Day parade.

VSECU is also a major sponsor and supporter of the Harpoon Point to Point bike ride fundraiser scheduled for August 11.

10 Things College Freshmen Should Know About Credit Cards

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Most students have their first encounter with credit cards in college. As young consumers with lots of purchasing potential, even first-year students are targeted by marketers. In fact, 68% of students under 21 say they’ve received at least one credit card offer by mail in the last 12 months, according to the University of Houston Law Center.

If you have a student going off to college this fall, does he or she know the ABCs of credit cards? If not, you could help your future freshman become smarter with money by providing a tutorial on these 10 basics:

  1. Be aware that using a credit card means borrowing money you must repay. You’re making a legal contract with a lender. If you’re under 21, you have to have a co-signer or proof of income to show you can pay what you owe. Parents, if you choose to co-sign for your child, remember you are ultimately responsible for the payments and activity on the credit card account will appear on your credit report.
  2. You don’t have to apply for a credit card just because you’re offered one. It may be best to wait for six months to a year to see if you can get by without a credit card.
  3. You may not be offered the best deal. If you do need a credit card, shop around to find one with a low rate and no annual fee.
  4. Make your monthly payments on time. Missing the due date is one of the surest ways to damage your credit record, not to mention incurring the pain of a late-payment fee and sometimes a penalty interest rate.
  5. Pay off your balance every month. If you can’t, at least pay more than the minimum. As the hypothetical example below shows, if you owe $2,500 and make only minimum payments, it could take 34 years and cost nearly $8,800 to zero out your balance.

    Calculations based on APR of 18%. Example courtesy of National Association of Federal Credit Unions Money Smart—Financial Education Curriculum.
  6. Avoid using your credit card to get cash at an ATM or branch. Credit cards are a great tool to carry in a wallet for emergency purposes or for larger purchases. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t have cash on hand or in your savings or checking account, then you probably should forgo borrowing money for that $20 pizza.
  7. Know your credit limit—and don’t exceed it. Keep tabs on your account balance. If it goes above your credit limit, you’ll be hit with a fee.
  8. Don’t share your credit card number with a friend. It’s like handing over cash. Lots of cash. Cash you’ll be responsible for repaying if your friend doesn’t.
  9. Compare credit card receipts with your account statement. If any duplicate purchases or unauthorized transactions show up on your statement, call the customer service number on your statement right away.
  10. If you lose your wallet, cancel your credit card immediately. You can prepare for this possibility by photocopying the front and back of your credit card (your debit card, too). The back of each card will show the phone number to call if the card is lost or stolen. Prompt reporting is the best way to avoid liability for any fraudulent use, so don’t delay!

Saving Money by Rate Shopping

The Federal Reserve is keeping a tight rein on interest rates to keep our economy chugging along. Now might be a good time to take advantage of lower loan rates and refinance some of your existing debt.

One of the easiest and least complicated loans to refinance is your current auto loan. Many of us finance our vehicles directly with the car dealer because it’s easy and convenient. It gives us the one-stop shopping experience. But sometimes we pay a price for that convenience by paying a higher interest rate on the loan than what is available directly from your credit union.
Refinancing your auto loan from a mega auto financing company or from another bank, credit union or financial institution may be an opportunity for you to save money each month. The process is much less complex than refinancing a mortgage and can usually be completed within one business day.

Mortgage refinancing will take more time and more paper work than an auto loan, but the savings can be worth it. There are several different ways to adjust your home loan that could help you save money.

If you refinance your mortgage with the same term to a lower interest rate, you will immediately save money on your monthly payment. Homeowners with less than 15 or 20 years on their mortgage may want to refinance to a 30-year mortgage with a lower rate and invest the monthly savings into a higher yield investment. This strategy obviously bears some level of risk because in today’s marketplace that would require a yield of something above 6% which would be especially hard to find in an insured savings account.

Another refinancing option is to obtain a mortgage for more than the amount of your current outstanding loan balance. This strategy is called a cash-out refinance. The amount of cash above the loan balance could be used to pay off other higher interest rate debt.

Lastly, transferring credit card balances to a lower rate card is smart. Be careful if you’re taking advantage of a 0% transfer balance promotion. These types of offers are usually good for a specific time period and then the rate skyrockets. If you don’t pay off your balance before the date of the rate switch, you could end up paying a higher interest rate on your outstanding balances than you were with the original card.

Rate shopping is fairly easy because most financial institutions provide their interest rates online. Take the time to look at your current loan statements to see the exact interest rate you’re paying and compare it to the loan interest rates that are offered today. Be sure to include your credit union, VSECU, in that rate comparison.

New! VGreen—VSECU Financing for a Green Lifestyle

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While many Vermonters have the desire to go “green” and invest in environmentally responsible improvements for their homes or drive fuel efficient cars, affordable financing for green projects here in Vermont is virtually nonexistent—until now!

VGreen is Vermont’s solution for those seeking a green lifestyle. Through discounted rates and longer term loans, VSECU is making it easy and convenient for Vermonters to reduce their carbon footprint and save on monthly expenses.

The greatest advantage of VGreen’s complete line of financial options is its flexibility. VGreen loans may be used for many types of projects and purchases, large and small, including:

Energy Improvement Mortgage. Update your home with a new heating system, solar panels or other improvements that increase its energy efficiency. Flexible, extended terms are available to help keep your payments low.

Off Grid Mortgages. We’ve removed the hassles commonly associated with financing an off grid home. This unique lifestyle deserves a unique loan.

Energy Improvement Home Equity Loans. Finance your improvements, like better insulation or energy-saving windows, with a discounted or longer term home equity loan.

Energy Improvement Loan. This personal loan, with longer terms and discounted rates, provides a great way to finance smaller improvements, including updated energy efficient appliances.

Green Vehicle Loan. Your (new or used) hybrid, electric or high-MPG vehicle purchase may qualify for a lower loan rate.

Affordable financing for your next green project is right here at your credit union. Ask us about your options through VGreen or visit our energy saving loan pages for further details.

We Care 2 to Offer Member Vote on VSECU Charitable Giving

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If you had $5,000 to donate to a charity in Vermont, which charity would you choose?

This fall, VSECU is offering our members the opportunity to choose two Vermont-based charities to receive $5,000 each through our We Care 2 community giving program! In last year’s program, VSECU employees voted on their favorite Vermont-based charities and donated $10,000 to six organizations. This year, we decided to open up voting to all VSECU members age 18 and older to distribute another $10,000.

How Does We Care 2 Work?
From now through August 31st, authorized representatives of charities based in Vermont may submit applications for consideration. A committee of the VSECU Board of Directors will then narrow the field to five charities. The “final five” will be announced on September 15th on our website, through social media and in our branches.

Once the final five have been announced, supporters may rally support via social media or any other communication channel asking VSECU members to vote for their charities. Online voting will take place October 8-12th, and VSECU will announce the two charities with the most votes no later than October 17th.

Which charities are eligible?
To be eligible for We Care 2, charities must:

  • Be a nonprofit organization
  • Be based in Vermont or have a Vermont-based chapter
  • Have a statewide or cross-regional focus within Vermont
  • Keep all funds in Vermont
  • Focus on the essential needs of Vermonters in one or more of the following categories:
    • Shelter
    • Food
    • Health
    • Heat
    • Education

We at VSECU are very pleased and excited to open the voting to our membership in the 2012 We Care 2! For program details, including the application form, visit the We Care 2 pages.

12 Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraud, Scams and ID Theft

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Summer is here! We hope you find time to relax and take a break, but you should know that identity thieves and con artists are always on the job and working hard to steal your money. Here are 12 ways to guard against identity theft:

  1. First rule of thumb: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Thieves are always devising new ways to steal your money. Keep your eyes and ears open to fraud alerts and warnings.
  2. Never give out your personal information to anyone unless you have initiated the contact. Please note: VSECU will never contact you to ask for your account number or other personal information. However, when you contact us, we may ask you to provide some personal information to verify your identity.
  3. If possible, do not carry with you personal information, such as your social security card or credit cards you rarely use. Store documents with personal information locked away in a secure place.
  4. Report lost or stolen checks, debit cards or credit cards to your financial institution or card issuer immediately.
  5. Shred anything bearing personal information before disposal. This includes discarded credit card or account applications.
  6. Do not respond to an e-mail, letter or phone call that you’ve won a lottery or contest that you’ve never entered. (Refer to Rule #1)
  7. Read your account statements thoroughly and monitor your VSECU accounts and credit card accounts online. Report suspicious activity immediately.
  8. Check your free credit report from all three credit bureaus at Report any errors or suspicious activity immediately.
  9. Watch your mailbox! Retrieve your mail as soon after delivery as possible, and mail bill payments that contain checks and account numbers from a U.S. Postal Service collection box.
  10. Be aware of the people around you when using an ATM or a computer in a public place or pay at a retailer or restaurant with a debit or credit card. They could be noting passwords, PINs, account numbers and other personal information.
  11. Never share your passwords—not even with your best friend—that give access to your accounts or other personal information. Try to memorize your passwords, but if you must write them down, store them in a protected place (not on your computer).
  12. Know that clever internet thieves will send fake e-mails or instant messages to direct you to web sites that resemble legitimate web sites, tricking you into giving your personal information. This is called “phishing.” Don’t take the bait!

What if you become a victim? Even the most careful people can become victims of identity theft. If you think someone is using your personal information, report the theft immediately and take action to stop the thief from doing more damage. A great source for steps to take can be found at Here are the first steps to take:

  1. Report the crime to local law enforcement and fill out a report.
  2. Call your financial institution or credit card issuer to report the crime. You may want to put a stop payment on a check, close your account, have a new account number issued, etc.
  3. Place a fraud alert on your credit file with the credit bureaus. Equifax: 1-888-766-0008 or; Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or; TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or
  4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at as the FTC tracks ID thefts.

Two Strategies to Pay Down Debt—Which One Is Best for You?

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Which should you tackle first to pay down debt—the loans with the highest interest rates or the lowest balances? You will find financial experts on both sides of the fence on this, but it really comes down to what motivates you and keeps you on track.

Strategy 1: Pay down debt with the highest interest rates.
This sounds like a no-brainer. While maintaining minimum payments on all loans, you would want to choose the loan with the highest interest rate to pay down more quickly. This is because it is costing you the most money every day as the interest accrues on the balance of your loan. This is only common sense, right? But it can get discouraging as the balance appears to shrink at a snail’s pace because more of your monthly payment is going towards interest in comparison to the loans with lower rates. So, let’s take a look at Strategy 2…

Strategy 2: Pay down debt with the smallest balances.
The problem with the first strategy is that it can get discouraging as the debt continues to loom huge above your head, and your monthly payment doesn’t seem to make much of a dent. So, while the first strategy makes sense financially, it just might not work for you long-term as your enthusiasm lessens. If you find yourself discouraged, it might be a better strategy to pay down debt with the smaller balances, no matter what the interest rate. As you pay off each loan and move on to pay down the next, you will gain momentum and a sense of achievement—this is called the “snowball” effect! By the time you are ready to tackle the loan with the largest balance, you will have gained the confidence you need to stay on track until you are debt-free.

In the end, it is up to you how you want to approach paying off your debt. As long as you choose a strategy that suits your needs, you are on the road to debt-free success! To learn more about how to manage your debt, visit VSECU’s free online program, Debt in Focus, in our Financial Education section on our site.

Options for More Retirement Income

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What do you do if your portfolio isn’t generating a decent return?
Presented by Brian D. Bishop of MEMBERS Financial Services

Do you wish you had more money these days? You aren’t alone. Many retirees find that their income streams are insufficient.

Right now, interest rates are at rock bottom—and it appears they will stay there for the near future. With the federal funds rate near 0%, some of the classic conservative retirement investments—such as money market funds and CDs – aren’t even earning returns to keep up with 2%-3% inflation.12

Today, a little adjustment to your portfolio might lead to a better yield.

Growth investing is important even when you are retired. It makes sense to be conservative with your hard-earned retirement money. The dilemma is that you can be too conservative when investing it.

Some retirees adopt an extremely risk-averse investment approach. A trade-off comes with that decision: if your goal is to minimize risk, you may also risk minimizing your portfolio returns. If you owned a longer-term CD when the recession began in December 2007, the income from that CD has dropped by two-thirds since then.1

The goal is to find the middle ground—a level of risk that you can comfortably assume in pursuit of a return that translates to a better income stream.

While some retirees would like to bail out of equity investing, that may pose a risk in itself. As stocks and funds may return 10-15% (or better) in a good year, it is pretty hard to walk away from their potential. If you want improved cash flow, fixed-rate investments may not have the ability to provide it.

This is why you don’t want to abandon growth investing—the kind of investing with a foot in the equities markets, the kind you used to build your retirement savings. Many people in their 50s, 60s and even 70s are still in the accumulation phase—they still need to build up their retirement fund even as they need to withdraw income from it.

Remember the “Rule of 72.” You may have heard of this financial rule of thumb, often used to project inflation. At 4% inflation, the cost of living will double in 18 years, at 8% inflation it will double in 9 years, and so forth—whatever multiplies to 72. Inflation is about 3% right now, but there’s no guarantee it will stay there for the balance of your retirement. It wasn’t so long ago when consumer prices would rise by 5%, 8%, even 12% or 15% a year.

Your retirement income has to keep pace with this inflationary advance. If it doesn’t, you will be left with less and less purchasing power as the years proceed. Imagine trying to live today on the amount of income you earned 15 or 20 years ago. Wouldn’t that be depressing? Wouldn’t your lifestyle suffer? Well, that is the outcome you risk having if your retirement income doesn’t increase with the times.

Factor in medical costs and life’s little emergencies, and the message is clear—you need more income for the future, not the same or less.

Where might a conservative investor find a better yield? The classic bearish move is to shift money from stocks into bonds, but bonds aren’t providing great yields today and their value will fall when interest rates eventually start to rise. There are other yield sources that may be worth a look.

  • Real estate investment trusts (REITs) allow you to enter the commercial real estate sector without the hassles of property management. They give you a fractional ownership share of a major-league real estate portfolio, with potential for dividend payments and excellent returns. Private REITs are not publicly traded.
  • Dividend stocks stood out during the recession, as investors turned to them for cash flow. Commonly, they are issued by established corporations in essential industries.
  • Utilities. Investors often look to the utilities sector for a hedge as utilities stocks have the potential for nice dividends in good and bad market climates.
  • Commodity futures. These include precious metals, oil and gas investments, green energy resources, crops and necessities such as timber and livestock.
  • Currencies. When the dollar is weak, funds investing in foreign currencies get a boost as most funds out there are dollar-denominated.

You can invest in many of these asset classes not only via stocks and futures contracts, but via managed funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). ETFs are nice, as they don’t cost an arm and a leg to enter. They are tax-efficient, and as they trade on exchanges during the market day, they offer great liquidity and flexibility.

Ask about your options. In fact, ask me. I have helped other retirees assess and revise their portfolios, with the goal of rebuilding and/or growing their incomes and savings. Call me at 802/800 371-5162, ext. 5185, or email me at today with your questions, or to arrange a time to meet. What you learn might make you feel better about your financial future.

Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA / SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members.

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. Marketing Library.Net Inc. is not affiliated with any broker or brokerage firm that may be providing this information to you. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is not a solicitation or a recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment. 05032012-WR-491

1—tms—retiresmctnrs-a20120314mar14,0,1100086.story (3/14/12)

2 (3/5/12)

Living Green in the Green Mountain State

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Contrary to what Kermit of Sesame Street® fame says, it is easier than you think to be green—especially here in the Green Mountain State.

We’ve discovered green resources abound in Vermont! If you are looking for ways to create a lifestyle that will have a positive impact on the environment, here are a few resources—just the tip of the iceberg—to explore green living in Vermont:

If you want to reduce carbon emissions, drive your gas-guzzler less. Way to Go! has a comprehensive website at where you can learn more about carpooling, biking, walking, telecommuting and taking public transportation. If you are thinking about carpooling, join with other like-minded folks through Go Vermont, a service provided by the Vermont Agency of Transportation at CarShare Vermont offers a novel idea, paying to use a car only when you need it. CarShare Vermont currently is available in downtown Burlington only but hopes to expand. To find out more about Carshare, visit for details.

Alternative Energy
Solar, wind, geothermal, biomass…if you are looking for an alternative to fossil fuels, it is easy to find resources that will help you sort through the options. Renewable Energy Vermont’s comprehensive website at is a good place to learn about renewable and sustainable energy alternatives. Another website to explore is, a helpful resource from the Sustainable Energy Resource Group. Both websites provide lists of companies that specialize in alternative energies as well as educational workshops and conferences.

If you are not ready to install an alternative energy system, the next best step is to make improvements to your home to more efficiently use energy. Efficiency Vermont provides many ideas to save energy, from small, inexpensive changes in lighting choices to a comprehensive home energy audit. Their website is

Eating Green
Relax…eating green does not mean limiting your diet to spinach and peas. Rather, eating green refers to consuming foods grown and raised without chemical fertilizers and/or hormones and other additives. Farmers’ markets and food cooperatives are popular places to find organic and natural produce and meats. Finding a farmers’ market near you is easy by visiting the Vermont Department of Agriculture’s “Buy Local/Buy Vermont” website at To find a list of food co-ops in Vermont and throughout the U.S., visit

Eating green may also refer to foods consumed in close proximity to the food source. The farm-to-table movement is growing in popularity across the country, including Vermont. Why is eating locally grown produce and meats considered “green”? Think of the fuel saved when you eat strawberries grown only a few miles away from you rather than shipped across the country from California or Mexico. Plus, there is something that makes the food tastier when you know it is grown here in Vermont. For a list of farms and restaurants that are members of the Vermont Fresh Network, visit

Finally, you might also want to patronize a green restaurant, one that practices energy conservation, including using Energy Star appliances, low-flow dishwashers and sinks and taking other energy-saving measures. To find out more about where to find green restaurants or how to become a green restaurant, visit the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership at

Here are a few more resources for everything green in Vermont:

Women and Personal Finances

Women’s roles in the family and in society have changed over the decades, and it is more important than ever for women to know how to manage their personal and family finances. We found this article from, one of our favorite personal finance websites, that gives women some solid advice.

By Jason Alderman

By many measures, women’s lives have changed substantially in recent decades. According to a comprehensive government report called “Women in America”, although certain social and economic situations for women have improved, when it comes to personal finances, many women still face challenging hurdles.

Key report findings include:

  • Women live longer than men but are much more likely to experience critical health problems that hamper their ability to work – and to pass up needed care due to cost.
  • Although the earnings gap between women and men continues to narrow, it’s still significant: Among full-time workers, women’s weekly earnings as a percentage of men’s have increased from 62 percent in 1979 to 80 percent in 2009.
  • More women than men now graduate high school and college, but far fewer earn degrees in engineering, computer sciences and other higher-paying fields.
  • Women increasingly marry later, have fewer children or remain childless, yet still are more likely to live in poverty, particularly single-mother families.
  • Women are less likely than men to work outside the home (61 percent vs. 75 percent in 2009) and are much more likely to work part-time and to take time off to raise children or care for aging relatives.

In a nutshell: Women generally earn less and live longer than men, so at retirement they often have less in savings, receive smaller retirement and Social Security benefits and must spread out their money longer. Clearly, women need to take charge of their financial wellbeing. Here are a few places to start:

Develop a budget to track income and expenses. Either download a budget spreadsheet template or investigate software packages and online account management services like Quicken,, Yodlee and Mvelopes.

Plan for retirement. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to retirement savings, so get cracking. Start estimating your retirement needs:

Social Security’s Retirement Estimator, which automatically enters your earnings information from its records to estimate your projected Social Security benefits under different scenarios, such as age at retirement, future earnings projections, etc.

Check whether your 401(k) plan administrator’s website has a calculator to estimate how much you will accumulate under various contribution and investment scenarios. If not, try the retirement calculators at and AARP to determine your current financial status and what you’ll need to save to meet your retirement needs.

Do your research. Many helpful personal financial education and management tools are available online, including:

  • The National Foundation of Credit Counseling’s MyMoneyCheckUp program offers a step-by-step assessment of your overall financial health and behavior in four personal finance areas: budgeting and credit management, saving and investing, planning for retirement and managing home equity.
  • Social Security’s Website for Women provides information on retirement, disability and other issues. You can also order or download their informative, free publication, “What Every Woman Should Know”.
  • The Women’s Savings Initiative, a program jointly developed by Heinz Family Philanthropies, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) and Visa Inc. This free program features an audio- and e-book called “What Women Need to Know About Retirement,” which you can order on CD or download as a PDF or audio file from Practical Money Skills for Life, a free personal financial management program run by Visa.

This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It’s always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.

Why Leave Vermont During Summer Vacation?

You don’t have to venture far to find fun things to do during summer vacation. There are lots of fun places to visit within our state that are educational and family-friendly.

For example, the Echo Center on the Burlington Waterfront is packed with hands-on exhibits as is the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich. Are your kids crazy about animals? A trip to the Independence Farm in Orwell or the VINS Nature Center in Quechee will surely satisfy their love for the animal world.

If you run out of ideas, a visit to your local library may re-energize your summer. Most libraries, even the smallest village library, offer free programs for children and young adults. For example, your child can join the craze for knitting at the “Drop-in Knitting Club” at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum every Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Knitting instruction, supplies and snacks are provided. If you live near Springfield, the Springfield Town Library has summer reading programs for all ages, including “Dream Big” for children, “Own the Night” for young adults and “Between the Covers” for adults. Information will be posted online at the end of May or beginning of June.

Stuck at home? Beat boredom by visiting the American Library Association online which provides a host of great websites full of games, stories and educational articles. For even more ideas for family activities, visit these great websites:

It May Take a Superhero to Get Your Kids to Budget

Need help teaching your kids about saving and spending wisely? Call in the superhero!, a financial literacy website sponsored by Visa, has created a “really cool worksheet”: featuring one of our favorite Marvel comic heroes, the Incredible Hulk. This fun and educational activity helps teach youngsters how to track their income and expenses.

Using the worksheet, the child can keep a log of money earned performing chores or extra jobs around the house or a regular allowance. Then, the child can track expenses, such as paying for movies or snacks or giving to charity. The goal is to help the child learn to save some money first and then plan expenses accordingly. The challenge is help your child spend only what has been planned in the budget.

We all need a little help from a superhero once in a while, so let the Incredible Hulk keep your child’s spending on track!

Waterbury Senior Goes High Tech at VSECU

Who says the world of high technology is just for the young? Francis Vaughn of Waterbury would certainly disagree. At age 92, Francis is a weekly visitor at VSECU’s new Waterbury branch office where he regularly uses the personal teller service, an innovative banking technology VSECU has installed in two of its branch offices.

In January, VSECU opened its new branch at 27 S. Main St., relocating from Waterbury’s state office complex. In the previous location, VSECU members like Francis conducted their business with the credit union at the teller window in the traditional manner.

Staff members are still on hand in the branch to assist members, but the teller window has been replaced with the personal teller service. The personal teller connects credit union members to a live teller who is viewed and heard through a video screen and audio speaker, but the teller is located in VSECU’s main office in Montpelier. The teller is able to serve both the Waterbury branch and the personal teller installed in the new Brattleboro branch.

Francis admits he was baffled when he first approached the personal teller. “I didn’t know what to make of it, those machines and all,” he said, “but I learned how to use them, and now I think it’s great.”

Francis conducts his business with VSECU just as he did at the previous branch but through the personal teller. He is able to make deposits and withdrawals, check account balances, transfer money and ask questions about his accounts. For Francis, one of the advantages is that he does not have to fill out paper deposit and withdrawal slips. He just punches in his account number and other information using the keypad, and he can slide checks into the scanner without using a deposit envelope.

A Vermont native who has lived in Waterbury since the early 1940s, Francis has been a VSECU member since “way, way back, almost as long as there has been a credit union.” Still very active at 92, Francis can be seen walking his black Labrador Buster around town, although friends say Buster appears to be walking Francis at times.

Francis says that when he enters the branch, he goes directly to the personal teller. He enjoys chatting via the video screen with the tellers, Debra and Sally, who greet him by name as soon as they see his face. “The staff in the office has had to help me a couple of times, but now it’s really easy to use,” he said.

VSECU Receives Diamond Awards for Outstanding Marketing, Business Development Achievements

VSECU was recently honored with two Diamond Awards, which recognize outstanding marketing and business development achievements in the credit union industry.

The awards were presented by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Marketing and Business Development Council, a national network comprising nearly 1,000 credit union marketing and business development professionals. Awards are given in each of 33 categories ranging from advertising to community events and beyond.

VSECU won awards in two categories. It won a Diamond Award for Best Use of Social Media by incorporating Facebook, Twitter and online videos to engage Vermonters in a VSECU employee-managed charitable contribution program called We Care 2 @ VSECU. Social media was used to ask Vermonters to recommend Vermont charities as part of VSECU’s giving program.

The second Diamond Award was for a Television Single Advertisement that introduced VSECU’s redefined savings account for all Vermonters. The ad was created in collaboration with Kerr Advertising, Montpelier, and Urban Rhino video production, Burlington. All awards considered strategy, creative concept, design and production, copy and communication and results as part of the judging criteria.

“The Diamond Award competition is the most prestigious competition for excellence in marketing and business development in the credit union industry,” said Sean McDonald, chair of the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council. “Credit unions that receive these awards should be extremely proud of their accomplishments and know that their work represents the very best examples of creativity, innovation, relevance, and execution. The Diamond Awards are not easily earned and the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council is proud to honor those who are deserving of this recognition.”

Award winners were recognized at the council’s 19th annual conference held March 7-10 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

About the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council:
The CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council is a member-led organization comprising nearly 1,000 credit union professionals from across the United States. The council strives to provide superior educational and networking opportunities to help its members be recognized in the credit union industry as the premier experts in credit union marketing, business development and related disciplines. For more information, visit

‘Edutaining’ Your Kids Over April School Vacation

Instead of letting your kids’ next school vacation zip by in a blur of sleeping, texting, gaming, and hanging with friends, why not do something as a family that they’ll never forget? New England is full of educational attractions for young folks that don’t cost megabucks. Here’s a sampling of ideas to get you started. (Check online to be sure a particular location is appropriate for your kids’ ages.)

The Undersea World

Despite our region’s fishing heritage, many kids have never seen a seal or a sole up close and personal. Two of the nation’s best aquariums are right here in the Northeast: Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn., and New England Aquarium in Boston. Whale-watching excursions also start in mid-spring (for day trips from Maine ports, click here.).


If you haven’t been to Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Mass., take this chance to see how folks lived here around 1800. Or give your kids a whole new perspective on Moby-Dick by visiting the old seafaring village and historic ships of Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Conn. In Fall River, Mass., Battleship Cove lets your fledgling John Paul Jones clamber through a battleship, submarine, and other real but retired vessels.

Arts and Sciences

Spark creative genius in your kids with a visit to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts ; the Boston Museum of Science ; the Harvard Museum of Natural History ; or the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in Providence.

Hiking and Camping

Some New England standouts: Acadia National Park ; Mount Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park ; and Monadnock State Park, Jaffrey, N.H. Or for a different – and awesome – look at nature, stroll with your children in a garden full of free-flying butterflies at the Butterfly Place in Westford, Mass.

Children’s Museums

Hands-on discovery and exploration features can turn even the most blasé kid into a curious participant. Among the many fine children’s museums in New England are those in Portland and Bangor, Maine ; Boston ; Dover , N.H. ; and Providence . In Worcester, Mass., the EcoTarium is dedicated to interactive exploration of natural and physical sciences and the New England environment.

Three Grand Opening Events Scheduled

We’re celebrating all month long, and you’re invited!

Join us in the festivities at any of our three new locations for grand opening celebrations! At each location there will be tours of the new branch, refreshments, door prizes for the first 175 people and a grand prize drawing.

Rutland Grand Opening – February 14th

Happy Valentine’s Day! Join us for an “I love my credit union themed” celebration on Valentine’s Day at our new, full sized, full service, environmentally friendly Rutland branch office located at 72 Seward Road.

  • Ribbon cutting at 4:00pm
  • Gifts for the first 175 people to visit
  • Grand prize drawing for an overnight stay for two at the Vermont Inn with a three course dinner and breakfast included (after all, it is Valentine’s Day!)

Waterbury Grand Opening – February 22nd

The celebration will continue at our new Waterbury branch, located at 27 South Main Street, on February 22nd. Come in and try our new personalized teller experience! No envelopes, no deposit slips and very easy to use. It’s better for the environment and you get the same friendly, personalized service you expect.

  • Ribbon cutting at 10:00am
  • Gifts for the first 175 people to visit
  • Grand prize drawing for a Vermont Gift Basket

Brattleboro Grand Opening – February 29th

Just one short week later we’ll be headed to our southern most branch to finish celebrating with the town of Brattleboro. You can find our new branch at 499 Canal Street (the Price Chopper Plaza). We’ll be broadcasting live with 92.7 WKVT and invite you to stop in and see what our new personalized teller experience is all about.

  • Ribbon cutting at 10:00am
  • Gifts for the first 175 people
  • Grand prize drawing for a Vermont Gift Basket

VSECU Opens Two New Branch Offices

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VSECU’s Waterbury Branch Office has opened its doors for business at our new location at 27 South Main Street.

Since September, the branch office has operated out of a temporary mobile unit on Railroad Street when Tropical Storm Irene badly damaged the state office complex, where our VSECU office had been located for 30 years. VSECU had already begun construction on the new branch when Irene struck Waterbury, and though the new site was affected by flooding, construction resumed as planned.

In our new location, the branch features a 24/7 ATM and convenient access in Waterbury’s central business area. We are also excited to introduce our new personal teller service! This new customer service experience centralizes the teller service so that more Vermonters can access live personalized teller service while the teller is actually located in the main office of VSECU in Montpelier. This new service mirrors the traditional experience of branch teller transaction while offering greater technology capabilities. On-site consultants will assist members with new accounts, loans and other VSECU services.

Hours of operation are 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

A grand opening and open house is planned for February.

VSECU has Opened Our First Office in Southern Vermont in Brattleboro

VSECU has chosen Brattleboro for its first branch office in southern Vermont and opened its doors for business on Jan. 12, 2012, in the Price Chopper Plaza at 499 Canal Street.

For years, VSECU members in southern Vermont have conducted their business with VSECU by mail, telephone and online via the internet, but the new office will give them the opportunity to chat in person with a VSECU member service consultant. In its convenient location in the Price Chopper Plaza, the office will offer a full range of financial products and services, including a 24/7 ATM, to Brattleboro and surrounding communities.

While members will be able to meet with consultants who can assist with opening new accounts, loans and other credit union services in the branch office, VSECU will introduce its new personal teller service. This new customer service experience centralizes the teller service so that more Vermonters can access live personalized teller service while the teller is actually located in the main office of VSECU in Montpelier. This new service mirrors the traditional experience of branch teller transaction while offering greater technology capabilities.

Hours of operation will be 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

A grand opening and open house is planned for February.

VSECU on Wheels Arrives in Waterbury

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The new mobile branch office opened its doors for business at 59 Railroad St., near the corner of Railroad Street and Park Row.

A message from Steve Post, CEO


We’re here to help you
The images of devastation from the tropical storm Irene are jaw dropping. The spirit, eagerness and resiliency of Vermonters banding together to help each other are no less than uplifting!

If you, a family member, or neighbor, has been impacted by the flooding we’ve experienced, I hope that you are finding the right resources to rebuild whatever loss you may have experienced. There are many, many great resources ready to help.

If you are one of our members, I want to remind you that we are here to help you in any way we can. The best way I believe we can help, is to assure you that we will do whatever we can to lessen any financial burden you may experience as a result of Irene.

Like always, we’re here to help each individual member during times of prosperity, and during difficult times, whether it is a recession or Mother Nature.

Reach out to us and let us know your circumstances. We’re here for you.

Full service call center available Monday – Friday: 7:00AM – 6:00PM and Saturdays: 9:00AM – 1:00PM at 802/800 371-5162.

Budgeting: Back-to-School

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Ah, back-to-school time: the smell of newly sharpened pencils, fresh crayons and flowing cash. If that third one’s got you down, take a look at these tips for creating – and sticking to – a back-to-school budget. While families spend on what they need, parents must also work with their children to determine what they really don’t need.

Start early, and take time to get ready. It doesn’t take much to turn the school’s supply list into a full-on shopping list. But you can do better than that.

Before you buy even one notebook, estimate how much you can afford to spend overall and what the costs are likely to be. Don’t leave anything out! It’s better to know ahead of time if things will be tight. (Keep reading for a bunch of creative ways to handle a shortage.)

Give some thought to what you’ll do with any extra money in the budget. Will the kids get something special from their mile-long wishlists? Or will the surplus be added back into the household budget?

Think ahead to find the best deals. Be on the lookout for the big back-to-school sales and go early. Even the big stores can sell out at the last minute.

How realistic is your budget? Try the Practical Money Skills back-to-school calculator to find out!

Get the kids involved. And not just with the shopping. Have them join in as you prepare; they’ll learn great lessons about budgeting, finding a good deal, and the difference between wants and needs.

Younger children can help cut coupons (with safety scissors, of course). And older kids can compare costs and tally them up. You might even put them in charge of looking for deals to stay under budget. Use back-to-school shopping as an opportunity to lay the foundation for helping your children develop sound money management habits early. Before you shop, review these tips:

  • Set a realistic back-to-school budget before you go shopping.
  • Have your kids prepare a budget with you.
  • Take a printout of your estimated budget with you when shopping and have your child enter in all of the actual expenses.
  • Encourage children to follow the budget. Stress that getting a more expensive item might mean sacrificing something else.
  • Encourage kids to consider ways to cut costs and manage cash flow, like clipping coupons, looking for sales or buying supplies each semester.
  • Teach your kids to comparison shop to avoid impulse buying or paying for overpriced items.
  • Differentiate between “needs” and “wants.” Encourage children to contribute their own money to fill the gap between what they “need” and what they “want.”
  • Tell kids that if they come in under budget, you will split the savings with them.
  • Continue the budgeting lesson by starting kids with an ongoing monthly budget.

Be willing to compromise on a few things. Sure, kids will want to have the same cool stuff their friends do. If your budget has the room, you can help them learn to prioritize.

Talk to them about how choosing a more expensive item means they’ll have to go cheap on another item, and give them a chance to think their choices through. If they have money of their own, you might ask them to help fund that special lunchbox or name-brand backpack.

Get creative to slash the shopping bill. There’s a good chance school clothes will take up the biggest chunk of your back-to-school budget. But who says they have to be brand new? Trade clothes and books with other families, or hit the thrift stores and garage sales. If school uniforms are required, check whether the school has a trading or discount program.

Buying online? Play it smart! Order together with enough friends to get free shipping. Or buy bulk packs of supplies to share. You might also find a steal on eBay or Craigslist.

Shop the sales. It seems that sales for back-to-school gets earlier and earlier. Before you recycle those weekly newspaper ads, scan them for retailer’s sales on clothing and school supplies. Watch for coupons online, postcards and in the mail, and in-store promotions to look for deals. Some items are worth scooping up on the spot, while you might wait for end-of-season sales to replenish your kids’ closet and bookshelves. For big ticket items like electronics for your older kids, do your homework on price comparisons before giving in and buying the coolest new laptop for your teen.

Learn from the experience. Make your savvy back-to-school approach an annual tradition. Keep track of this year’s expenses to help figure out the budget next year. Keep notes about what you discover, like where the best thrift stores are and when the store shelves start to empty. They’ll come in handy a year from now. And if your kids’ cost-savings decisions help you come out ahead, use it as a teachable moment to talk to them about what to do with the money that was saved.

Practice these smart shopping habits each year, and by the time the kids graduate, you’ll have saved a bundle. And they’ll be much more prepared for the real world.

This article is from

VSECU Staff “Green Up” Vermont

Green up

VSECU offered employees up to two hours to “Green Up Vermont” during the work week from May 2-13. Many employees took up the offer and donned their heavy gloves and boots to go out onto Vermont’s roadways and waterways to pick up trash as well as debris from recent spring flooding

Many employees went out as individuals, but others went out as teams. While most individuals gathered trash in their neighborhoods, the teams concentrated their efforts in more public areas, such as the Berlin Pond Road, Berlin; Route 12 to Elmore; Route 12 to Northfield; and Route 64 to Williamstown. One of the teams brought their kayaks to Wrightsville Dam, a few miles from Montpelier, and scoured the shoreline for trash brought into the water during spring flooding. The teams reported finding the usual bottles, cans, and food wrappers, but the Wrightsville Dam team reported the most unusual finds: a “No Smoking” sign and a child’s broken tricycle.

VSECU, a sponsor of Green Up Vermont since 2004, encourages you to participate in Green Up Vermont and make it an every-day commitment. Please find proper receptacles for your trash and pick up trash where you see it. Let’s all help keep Vermont green!

For more photos, visit VSECU’s Facebook page, A Banking Co-op for All Vermonters.

VSECU Thanks VT State Employees for Service

Gov. Peter Shumlin has proclaimed May 2-8 to be Public Service Recognition Week to thank our hard-working state employees for their dedicated service to their fellow Vermonters.

VT Students Rise to Top in Financial Challenge

Vermont high school students rose to the top during the recent National Financial Capability Challenge, a financial education program of the U.S. government focusing on our nation’s young people.

VSECU congratulates our Vermont students! Not only did Vermont’s students achieve the second-highest average score of all states participating, they had the highest percentage of perfect scores and the highest percentage of scores in the top 20 percent. More than 84,000 students from 1,692 public schools and 470 home schools across the U.S. participated, and though Vermont’s 145 participating students represented only a small fraction of the total, their results were very impressive.

The National Financial Capability Challenge is an awards program designed to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school aged youth across the United States so they can take control over their financial futures. It challenges high school teachers and other educators to teach the basics of personal finance to their students, and rewards students, educators, schools, and states for their participation and their success. Educators and top-scoring students will receive award certificates, and schools and states with the highest participation rates will earn special distinction. For more about the challenge and Vermont-specific results, visit

Champlain Valley Wins LifeSmarts Competition

It came down to the final question, but the CVU FBLA team from Champlain Valley Union High School had the quickest finger on the buzzer and the winning answer to take the championship at the Vermont LifeSmarts state competition on Feb. 10 in Montpelier.

Federal Benefit Payments Going 100% Electronic

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced late last year that by March 1, 2013, all federal payments—Social Security, veteran’s benefits, Supplemental Security Income and other federal payments—will be made electronically. More importantly, starting May 1 of this year, anyone who applies for federal benefits will need to choose an electronic payment option, either direct deposit to a credit union or bank account or to a Direct Express® debit card. Benefit recipients who currently receive checks will need to switch to one of the electronic payment options by the final March 1, 2013, deadline. Anyone who fails to choose by that date will receive their money via the Direct Express® card so they will not experience any interruption in payment.

The move to all-electronic federal benefit payments provides significant savings to American taxpayers who will no longer incur the $120 million price tag associated with paper checks. Electronic payments also are safer, easier and more convenient for benefit recipients. The Go Direct® campaign is helping federal benefit recipients transition to electronic payments. You may enroll online at, by phone by calling toll-free (800) 333-1795 or by mail using a paper form available at VSECU. A VSECU member service consultant can help with account and routing information.

VSECU Helps Eagle Scout Earn Merit Badge

Eagle Scout Patrick Thompson of Barre visited VSECU’s Montpelier main office recently to tour the facility and chat with staff. Although he earned his Eagle Scout rank in August 2010, Patrick continues to work towards earning more merit badges, including the American Business badge, his current project. To earn the American Business badge, Patrick is required to research how a credit union functions and the relationship between VSECU and other businesses in the community. Patrick interviewed Alvah Newhall, branch manager, and Chuck Karparis, vice president-lending officer, who were able to provide him with the information he needed.

A junior at Spaulding High School, Patrick has been involved in scouting since he was in fifth grade when he saw a scouting flyer and liked the program. Patrick says he hopes to attend college and study entomology, the science of insects.

VSECU Welcomes Elizabeth LaPerle

VSECU is pleased to welcome Elizabeth LaPerle as a mortgage originator in its Berlin Branch, 365 Paine Turnpike N. LaPerle brings with her 25 years of retail banking experience at Granite Savings Bank, Vermont National Bank and most recently at Northfield Savings Bank. She has held positions in management and business development and has 18 years experience in consumer lending.

“I like the fact that VSECU is committed to the community. Decisions are made locally here in our own backyard. If members have questions about their mortgages, they can call us here and not some mortgage company out of state,” LaPerle said. “I’m very happy to be a part of the VSECU team where our members are top priority.” LaPerle can assist all types of borrowers who live or work in Vermont—the first-time homebuyer or the homeowner seeking to refinance a current home or looking for a second home.

An active member of the Barre community, LaPerle has volunteered with the Barre Homecoming Committee, Barre Salvation Army and the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce. LaPerle has been active in the Barre Rotary Club for 15 years and currently serves as its treasurer. An avid sports fan, LaPerle is the assistant coach for two AAU boys’ basketball teams. LaPerle, husband Gary and sons Travis and Justin live in Barre Town.

VSECU is a not-for-profit financial cooperative, which offers a full range of affordable financial products and services to its member owners. People eligible to join the credit union include everybody who lives or works in Vermont.

VSECU Helps Vermont Historical Society Preserve Our Past

Vermont’s rich history is being carefully preserved by the dedicated staff and volunteers at the Vermont Historical Society. A recent $5,000 contribution from VSECU to the society’s Saving Vermont’s Treasures campaign will support their efforts to create three new gallery spaces in the Vermont History Center, located in an historical landmark, the Spaulding schoolhouse in Barre.

Once the project is complete, Vermonters will gain further access to their heritage through a Barre Heritage Gallery, a Special Exhibition Gallery and a Special Collections Gallery.

Exhibitions planned for these galleries will focus on “Vermonters in the Civil War,” “Vermont’s Quilt Legacy,” and “James Hope,” an artist from Castleton, Vermont.

The Vermont History Center welcomes 2,350 visitors each year who seek out Vermont’s story in the words, pictures and artifacts housed in the center. VSECU is proud to support the preservation of Vermont’s historical legacy, respectfully maintained for generations to come.

For more about the Vermont Historical Society and its efforts, visit

Top photo: Judy Rosenstreich, member of VSECU’s Board of Directors and chair of the Charitable Giving Committee, presents a $5,000 contribution to Mark Hudson, executive director of the Vermont Historical Society.

Bottom photo: Rosenstreich and Hudson examine a picture in the Vermont History Center’s archives, housed in a temperature-controlled vault. Behind them can be seen rolls of quilts, carefully preserved.

Get the Most of Your Gift Cards

Chances are you received a couple of gift cards over the holiday . . . and chances are you still have a gift card or two from the last holiday. While gift cards are nice to receive because you can purchase what you want, you may put them in a drawer and forget them for months—even years! Here are a few tips from about using gift cards that will help you get the most out of your gift card.

Members See Real Savings with VHeat!

Join your fellow members and save with the VHeat Fuel Buying Program! Since 2006, VHeat has brought real savings to members looking for affordable solutions to rising fuel prices. By joining together as group and pooling the thousands of gallons of fuel oil and propane gas they need for home heating, VSECU members have been able to negotiate lower fuel prices.

VHeat began with 600 participants four years ago and has grown to more than 2,000 members today. Over the years on average, VHeat has saved members an average of $.38/gallon per year on fuel oil or $304 based on a purchase of 800 gallons. Joining VHeat is affordable and easy. If you are looking to save money on your home heating fuel costs, ask a Member Service Consultant about the VHeat program.

We Work For You

VSECU Small Logo

We are an all volunteer Board elected by our members to oversee and govern the …

Donate to Help the Uninsured in Vermont

For many years, VSECU has supported the Vermont Coalition of Clinics for the Uninsured (VCCU) through our charitable giving program. This year, VSECU’s Board of Directors Committee donated $30,000 in response to the growing need in Vermont for affordable health care. In addition, we donated another $10,000, matching contributions made by VSECU members and others wishing to support the clinics.

VSECU encourages you to make a donation to the 10 clinics of the VCCU. We will continue to accept donations through Dec. 31, 2010.

Camp Money HA-HA Teaches Money Skills

Learning how to spend and save money wisely is a skill that some of us adults are still trying to learn. That is why it is so important to begin developing these skills while still in school—and as early as first or second grade. Recently, VSECU’s Lynette Kemp, communications coordinator, and Caroline Cross, members service consultant at the Williston Branch, brought a fun and interesting way to learn financial literacy lessons to four classes of first and second grade students at Allen Brook Elementary School in Williston.

Camp Money HA-HA is a hands-on, interactive game where students learn how to shop while staying within a budget. The game was developed by Kemp who coordinates the credit union’s financial literacy efforts. In Camp Money HA-HA, students pretend they are shopping for supplies to go on an overnight camping trip. The challenge is to only spend the money they are given—$200 in play money—to buy the items they “need,” such as a tent, sleeping bag, and food, as well as some additional items they may “want,” such as a fishing pole or a swimsuit.

Students “shop” by selecting cards imprinted with the merchandise for sale. Before they “check out” at the register, they add up their purchases to make sure they have not spent more than $200. If they have exceeded that amount, they must go back and return items or make trades for less expensive items. After the game is over, Kemp discusses the importance of spending only the money available for the shopping trip and how to make smart choices to stay within the budgeted amount.

“It’s really interesting to see what the students come up with and note that their shopping habits are already forming,” Kemp said. “For instance, on some items for sale, we offer two prices for similar items. Some students will go right for the less expensive ones, while others will put more consideration into their choices. Also some students will spend every last dollar of their $200, while others will take great delight in how much money they have left after they have checked out at the register. It’s always fun to observe how individual students shop, especially at such a young age.”

For more about Camp Money HA-HA, contact Lynette Kemp at

Your Holiday Gift-Giving Survival Guide

Looking for ways to keep your budget in check during holiday gift-giving time? Here are some tips and tricks to keep your holiday festive without emptying your wallet.

Practical Money Skills

Federal Trade Commission


Remember, a gift doesn’t always have to be purchased. Your gift of time and talents may be the best gift of all!