The Gunn's car insurance seemed high to me, so I invited independent Trusted Choice agent Brendan Higgins of the Thousand Islands Agency in Clayton, N.Y., to shop around among the many companies he represents. Contacting an independent agent for help is a great time saver because it's like comparing prices all over town, but with one phone call. It was amazing. Not only did Brendan find the Gunns great savings, he got them better, more complete coverage. Their liability limits, in particular, were too low for today's litigious world and he upped them from $100,000 to $500,000 while still saving them money. Total savings? An impressive $2,082 a year for their two vehicles. Brendan says he often scores savings like that for his clients by switching to other reputable companies and also by analyzing their specific coverage to see if cost-saving changes can be made. Trusted Choice, an alliance of independent agents can refer you to one near you.
Tom and Nancy Gunn had never tried to refinance their house and take advantage of today's historically low interest rates because they didn't have the cash for closing costs. I asked them if they belonged to a credit union. They do! But they had never approached their credit union about refinancing. So I took the Gunns to Oswego County Federal Credit Union to see what we could cook up. Loan officer Aimee Johnson suggested taking the Gunn's two mortgages –a first at 6.75 percent and a second at 13.84 percent -- and refinancing them both into a new loan at 5.35 percent! Then she wowed me with a concept I had never heard of before: the loan would be a home equity loan rather than strictly a mortgage. It really is a mortgage, because you use it to finance your entire house, but Oswego County Federal Credit Union calls it a "Home Equity Loan" because it has zero closing costs. Perfect for the Gunns! Basically, to thank you for bringing in your loan business, the credit union pays the closing costs for you.
This is a concept unique to credit unions that other consumers can inquire about. (Commercial banks also offer no-cost refinance deals, but they charge you a slightly higher interest rate to cover the closing costs they are paying for you.) The Gunn's monthly payment will remain exactly the same but they will be done paying their house off in 11 years – 8 years early! Their total savings by switching to such a competitive interest rate? $33,473! "That's so huge! So huge!" Nancy exclaimed. "Maybe we'll actually be able to retire some day!"
Oswego County Federal Credit Union also offered to roll the Gunn's car loans and credit cards into a second, more traditional home equity loan at 8 percent for three years. Currently their car loans are at 13 percent and 14.75 percent, so that's a dramatic improvement. They only have modest credit card debt, but the rates are as high as 29.99 percent, and it would take 30 years to pay off the existing debt by making minimum payments. The rollover plan will save them $13,684 and get those debts paid off in just three years! It will also save them $155 a month, loosening their purse strings a bit.