8 Ways to Recover from a Financial Setback

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From big emergencies to minor setbacks, learning how to deal with money crises is a key aspect of healthy financial management. Losses are a part of life, and while planning and preparing for them can help, you can’t always stop fiscal setbacks from occurring.

When faced with financial hardship, individuals need to adapt their money plans to deal with present challenges. After all, your normal fiscal approach isn’t going to work when times are tough. Here are eight tips designed to help limit the damage of financial problems and get you and your money back on track.

1. Calm Emotions and Stay Smart.

The stress that results from financial setbacks can lead individuals to make foolish mistakes with regard to money.

“Setbacks often leave us reeling, since they’re often unexpected and can involve high emotion, and when emotion goes up… intelligence goes down,” said Robert T. Kiyosaki, author of No. 1 personal finance book, “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” Kiyosaki went on to advise people to stay rational about the choices ahead.

According to Kiyosaki, a financial crisis represents an opportunity to learn more about money and improve your financial habits.

“Financial education and getting smarter with your money is always a great way to prepare for the future — whatever it holds, good and bad — and hedge against all the unexpected speed bumps (and potholes, and road black and detours) on the road to financial freedom,” Kiyosaki said.

2. Adopt a Problem-Solving Mentality.

When faced with financial hardship, savvy individuals face their problems head on.

Kyle Taylor, founder of the popular personal finance blog, ThePennyHoarder.com, said, “When going through a financial setback, it’s important to develop a problem-solver mentality. After all, setbacks are merely a setup for a comeback.”

While money problems might seem insurmountable, it’s important to look for ways to address financial issues proactively.

“Regroup and re-strategize when things go awry,” said Taylor. “You may need to adjust your budget and figure out additional income streams.”

3. Make a Plan.

While adopting a positive, forward-thinking attitude is essential, individuals must also create specific plans to deal with their new circumstances.

“We all have financial setbacks, but it’s how we handle these setbacks that often separates those who win with money from those who don’t,” said Chris Hogan, a retirement expert with the Dave Ramsey team. “Create a plan to help you overcome the obstacle, whether it’s a job loss, costly emergency or simply regretting a large purchase.”

When crafting your plan, one of the aims is to modify your spending behavior and use the extra money to tackle your financial setback.

“That may mean cutting back on your expenses until you’re able to build your emergency fund back up, or you may need to start budgeting so you can avoid overspending,” Hogan said. “Remember, your past doesn’t determine your financial future.”

Everyone has the power to change fiscal habits and do better moving forward.

4. Get a Money Mentor.

When you’re in the middle of a monetary crisis, it can feel like there’s no way out. To combat feelings of hopelessness, money experts recommend seeking out people who have been in situations like yours (or worse ones!) and determining how they dug themselves out of the hole.

“Get a mentor/coach to help… someone that has been there,” said Josh Felber, an entrepreneur and business coach.

This person can provide individualized advice about how to improve your situation, give you encouragement when you’re feeling down and keep you accountable to ensure you stay on track.

Here at First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams by defining your dream goals and lifestyle, empowering you through financial education, building your wealth, planning your retirement, and managing your risk. Establishing financial goals is an important part of saving enough money, and being ready for the future and we are here for you! Stop into any one of our branches and sit with a representative to have an annual financial check-up for a review of your finances and portfolio. 

5. Start Saving Right Away.

While finances might be tight right now, that doesn’t mean you should abandon important money habits like saving. Even in the midst of a financial crisis, business experts like Whitney Johnson recommend that saving habits be maintained.

According to the author of the bestselling book, “Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work,” individuals should strive to save each month, “no matter how small the amount … even before you think you can.”

The truth is, you can’t afford not to save, especially while your finances are still recovering.

6. Give Yourself a Raise.

If you need to secure some extra money to tackle a big financial issue, you might be able to find it by lowering your expenses.

“Remember that you have the power to give yourself a raise,” said Jeanette Pavini, money expert and spokesperson for Coupons.com. Here’s what she means: “Spending less can be like making more.”

According to Pavini, individuals might also need to sacrifice extra luxuries while recovering from a financial setback.

“Get rid of the $150 a month cable bill, and it’s like giving yourself an $1,800 after-tax raise,” Pavini said, adding that financial stress can be detrimental to mental health and overall wellness. However, she suggested that simplifying one’s life can have positive consequences as well.

Said Pavini, “You may even find that when you simplify and learn to live without, your life becomes rich in so many other ways.”

7. Keep Your Credit On Track.

While a financial crisis can feel overwhelming, money experts recommend keeping credit ratings on track. Clark Howard, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, “The Clark Howard Show,” advised consumers to keep an eye on their credit scores during financial setbacks and take steps to improve them.

Howard says, “If you’re suffering from poor credit, there are several surefire ways to get your credit healthy again.” He recommends that individuals take the following steps to start:

  1. “Always pay your bills on time and pay down the total amount you owe. If you forget all else after reading this, remember this one! This is the single most important rule for having a good credit score.”
  2. “Keep a low credit utilization rate.” This means keeping credit card balances low and resisting the urge to charge more to accounts.
  3. “When you pay off a credit card, don’t close the account. Doing so only reduces your available credit and drives your score down.” He also recommends keeping four to six lines of credit open, using each twice a year and paying them off right away. “That will keep them active in your credit mix.”

8. Target Credit Card Debt.

Paying off credit card debt is a key part of recovering from financial hardship. Bestselling Finance Author, Nicole Lapin, notes that charging purchases is all too easy and cautions individuals against getting behind on debt.

After factoring in interest, Lapin said, “you may end up paying $50 for a pair of socks before you’re through paying off your cards.” With that in mind, she advises individuals to “double-time” their credit card debt and strive to pay off balances monthly. Lapin went on to acknowledge that people in the midst of a financial setback might not be in the position to pay off credit card debt immediately.

“Instead, try to curb enough of your other expenses (take from your ‘fun money’ category first) to double-down on your payments each month,” said Lapin.

The money expert also recommended that those with debt get an early start on their taxes and use any refund checks to pay down credit card bills. Not anticipating a refund this year? If you racked up credit card debt with too many purchases, you can always put your loot to use in paying off the balance.

“Pull out the clothes, appliances and household items that you haven’t used in a while, or don’t want anymore,” Lapin said. “You can auction them off on eBay, or post them on your local Craigslist, and then use this ‘free-money’ to pay down debt.”

Financial setbacks are inevitable, but you don’t have to stay in debt long term. By following the expert tips above, you can get back on the road to fiscal health.

*Original article source courtesy of Elyssa Kirkham of GoBankRates.com.

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Robin Fabricatore of Toms River Intermediate North High School

Press Release

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(L to R: Toms River Board of Ed Member – Christopher Raimann, Principal at Toms River North – Lynn Fronczak, Guidance Counselor at Toms River North – Robin Fabricatore, Business Development Director at First Financial – Matthew Brazinski, and Toms River Board of Ed Member – Joe Nardini)

WALL, N.J. – Toms River Intermediate North High School guidance counselor and anti-bullying specialist, Robin Fabricatore, was surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $500 classroom grant for the 2015-2016 school year.

Ms. Fabricatore submitted a grant application to assist with the events that are run by the Interact Club in her school – a Rotary International service club with 97 participating students. The grant money will be used to help with the group’s future community outreach efforts. They plan to purchase plastic containers for each homeroom (56 total) to collect aluminum can tabs to be donated to the Long Branch Ronald McDonald House. They also plan to purchase supplies to make holiday cards for the nursing home/homebound elderly. The club also wishes to buy a color ink cartridge to allow students to make flyers and posters brighter and more noticeable. Lastly, any money remaining will be used to purchase two large plastic containers and cellophane to make gift auction baskets for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Dr. Seuss stickers for the Read Across America event.

“Our main goals as Interact members are to make new friends, improve the community, develop leadership skills and make a difference in the world,” said Fabricatore. “Intermediate North has an awesome group of Interact students that are eager to help our community.”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators six (6) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2015-2016 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” noted First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just six winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received dozens of heartening essays from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs in their schools such as purchasing basic skills materials for struggling students, funding a thanksgiving feast for the less fortunate, integrating digital voice recorders for students to practice second languages, new tables for a classroom, iPads, updated software, and pencil grips for students in pre-K through 2nd grade – to name a few,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the six classrooms in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

About the First Financial Foundation: Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, visit www.firstffcu.com.

6 Ways You Can Save More Money in 2016

Save-Save-SaveDid you close out 2015 with a little less in your bank account than you would’ve liked? If you’re like a lot of people, you might be disappointed in how much you managed to set aside.

Saving more was the biggest financial priority for 29% of young people, as revealed in a recent survey by Bankrate. The only money issue millennials were more concerned about was paying bills.

Knowing you need to save more and being able to do it are two different things, however. How can you set aside more money when you’re stretched thin as it is? Thankfully, saving a little extra each month isn’t as hard as it may seem. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Pay yourself first. One of the hardest parts of saving money is doing it consistently. You can make it easier on yourself by automating the process.

“Pay yourself first by setting up automatic savings through payroll deduction in your work retirement plan or through automatic transfers through your bank account,” Antonio Morello, the chief investment officer at McMahon Financial Advisors, said. Aim to save 10% to 15% of your salary every year, including contributions to your retirement plan. As an added bonus, those deductible retirement contributions will also save you money come tax time.

2. Spend less on food. Frequent delivery orders and dinners out with friends add up quickly. Save yourself some money by being smarter about how you eat.

“Plan your meals for the week to avoid last minute take-out orders,” Willie Schuette, a financial coach with The JL Smith Group, said. You can also save by buying in bulk and saving leftovers for later rather than tossing them in the trash, Schuette suggested.

3. Cancel subscriptions you don’t use. Do you have a gym membership you barely use or a monthly box subscription you don’t really need? Cancel those recurring charges and funnel the extra money into your savings or to pay down debt. You could end up with a few hundred extra dollars in your pocket at the end of the year.

Have trouble keeping track of which subscriptions you’ve signed up for? There’s an app to help you out. Trim will comb through your credit card statements and bank accounts, find the recurring payments, and ask if you want to cancel the service. It’s free to use, though there’s currently a waiting list.

4. Donate to charity. “Donating to charity is a great way to boost your deductions while helping others,” said Don Chamberlin, a Saint-Louis-based financial advisor and president of The Chamberlin Group.

Donations can come in the form of cash, stock, and even big-ticket items like cars, but you’ll need to itemize and keep accurate records to get the tax breaks.

5. Keep an eye on your credit. Don’t pay more than you have to the next time you need to borrow cash. Maintaining a good credit score “can save you money when it comes to buying a car or anything else on credit, car insurance, or buying a home,” Herb White, a financial planner and president of Life Certain Wealth Strategies, said.

Credit scores above 700 show lenders that you do a good job of managing the money you borrow, according to Experian. You can boost you credit score by paying bills on time, not running up balances on your credit cards, and reducing your debt.

6. Check your withholding. A big tax refund sounds pretty awesome. That is, until you realize that the government is really just paying back the interest-free loan you gave them.

“If you got a big tax refund it means you are having too much taken out of your paycheck every pay period,” Schuette said. File a new W-4 with your employer so that you get more of your money when you actually earn it. Then, shift that extra cash to savings or use it to meet another financial goal.

*Original article source courtesy of Megan Elliot of Money & Career Cheat Sheet.

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this February 2016

Love is in the air – and there’s so much to love this February with a ton of fantastic events happening in a town near you. Check out the list below of free or inexpensive activities to do with your loved ones all month long.

Wednesday, February 10: The State Ballet Theater of Russia presents one of the greatest classical ballets of all time, Swan Lake at Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank). This full-scale production, set to the music of Tchaikovsky and based on Russian folklore and German legend, follows a heroic young prince as he works to free the beautiful swan maiden from an evil spell. The State Ballet Theater of Russia presents 50 of Russia’s brightest ballet stars to bring this romantic tale of true love to glorious life! Tickets start at just $30. For more information and showtimes, call 732-842-9000.

Saturday, February 13: Take five of the top musicians from the greater New York area and create a sound that blends a healthy serving of traditional jazz, a touch of blues and rock, a dash of international flair, combined with a steady mix of standards and new material; and you begin to have a sense of the tasty cocktail that Sweet Whiskey will be serving up. This Valentine’s Day, take your loved one to enjoy “Jazz, Love, & Sweet Whiskey” at 8pm to hear all those songs that make your heart pitter patter at Algonquin Arts Theatre (Manasquan). For more information, call 732-528-9211.

Thursday, February 18: Join us at 6:00pm for our “How to Buy & Sell Your Home” Seminar, presented by the experts at First Financial. Learn how to go about buying a new home, the best way to sell your current home, figure out how much house you can afford to buy, budgeting tips for home improvement projects, plus so much more! The event will be held at our Wall Office at 1800 Route 34 North (Building 3, Suite 302), Wall. Space is limited, so make sure you sign up today! For more information, call 866-750-0100.

Sunday, February 21: Take the journey of a lifetime and step into the “unbubblelievable” magical kingdom of Fan Yang’s Mega Bubble Show at the Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank)! The first and only, interactive stage production of its kind, complete with fantastic light effects, lasers, and jaw-dropping masterpieces of bubble artistry – this unforgettable extravaganza is not to be missed. Bring the whole family for a day of fun – showtimes are at 12pm and 3pm and tickets start at just $20. For more information, call 732-842-9000.

Celebrate George Washington’s Birthday at historic Allaire Village (Farmingdale). In the early 1800’s there were no holidays that the new nation could bond over more so than George Washington’s birthday. There were dances and festivities in almost every town, so join the workers and their families of the Howell Iron Works in a day of celebration! There will be a special reenactment in the Chapel at 1pm and hearth cooking and craft demonstrations as well as house tours. This event is a great reason to get out of the house during winter and explore the village! For more information, call 732-919-3500.

Head over to Havana Tropical Cafe (Highlands) for their Annual Chili Cookoff! All proceeds will directly benefit the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sample some of the best chili in the area – the event will take place from 3-7pm and is $30 per person which includes chili tasting and beer. For more information, call 732-291-4713.

Sunday, February 21 – Wednesday, March 3: Mark your calendars! February is the time to dine fine in Red Bank – it’s Red Bank Restaurant Week! From February 21-March 3 (excluding Friday and Saturday), take advantage of $20, $25 and $30 prix fixe dining at over 20 outstanding restaurants, including many brand new eateries! Menus include appetizer, entree and dessert – click the link above to check out the participating restaurants and menus. For more information, call 732-842-4244.

Thursday, February 25: Join us at 6pm for a complimentary “Income for Life” Seminar, presented by the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial. Learn the sources of retirement income to rely on and strategies to consider, current retirement risks and how you’re drawing on your savings, and how to use annuities to guarantee income for life. The event will be held at our Freehold/Howell Service Center located at 389 Route 9 North (Next to the Howell Park & Ride), Howell. Space is limited, so make sure you sign up today! For more information, call 866-750-0100.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Important Member Alert: AARP Phone Scam

alert-resized-600Did AARP show up on the Caller ID of that scam call you just received?

Don’t believe it. Fraudsters are putting AARP on Caller IDs, along with a number with a 202 area code, to try to convince seniors that their calls are real.

The calls appear to be from someone by the name of Dennis Grey – who leaves a 973 number on a voice message, said Jeff Abramo, a spokesman for AARP New Jersey. AARP’s Fraud Watch received 10 to 12 reports of the calls from New Jersey residents in a two-hour span on Thursday, 1/28.

The caller claims to be from the IRS or U.S. Treasury. “She needed to make a payment or she would be prosecuted,” one victim was told, according to Abramo.

“Please be advised, these calls are NOT legitimate,” AARP New Jersey said on its Facebook page. “They are in no way connected to AARP or to the IRS.”

Of course, this is the latest twist on a scam that has been going around for months and months.

Hang up on IRS telephone scammers. The IRS won’t:

  • Demand payment of tax debt over the telephone.
  • Threaten to have you arrested by the police for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay without giving you the ability to question or appeal how much you owe.
  • Require that you pay using a specific method, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone.

To avoid additional potential fraud and scams this time of year, it is encouraged to also use direct deposit for tax refunds in order to protect yourself and your finances. Here are some key messages and statistics that are important to consider:

  • Eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refunds by direct deposit.
  • Direct deposit is simple, safe and secure.
  • 98% of all federal benefits are made by direct deposit.
  • Direct deposit also saves you money. It costs the nation’s taxpayers $1 for every paper refund check issued, but only about a dime for each direct deposit made.

As always, First Financial continues to monitor our member accounts for suspicious activity. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please give us a call at 866.750.0100 or email us at info@firstffcu.com

Be sure to enroll in our newest, upgraded Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – click here to enroll today!

Article Source: David P. Willis of the Asbury Park Press, 1.29.16

How to Save Money Even When It Feels Impossible

When living paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to set aside any money at all, let alone start saving substantially for things like retirement and emergencies. You get a paycheck, you immediately use it for rent, student loan payments, utilities and more, and all of a sudden you’re left with just barely enough to get by. So how can you even think about saving?

Well, the truth is, you can and you should, because the last thing you want is to be stuck with an emergency room bill or totaled car and have absolutely no money. In fact, most financial experts agree that everyone should have at least $1,000 in savings for those types of financial emergencies. To that end, here’s how to save money– even when it feels impossible:

Get in the Right Mindset.

Saving money is more than just a habitual practice– it’s a mindset.  Like starting a new workout regimen, saving money must be a lifestyle you’re completely committed to in order to be effective. So, the first step to saving money is making the decision to do so. That way, when you’re enticed by that sale at the mall or a nice dinner, you’ll have a clearly defined reason to say “no.”

Start Small – Very Small.

Saving money doesn’t have to mean putting 10% of every paycheck away. You’ve likely heard it before, but every dollar counts. At first, save more like 2% or even just $20 per month. OK, maybe that won’t make you rich as fast as saving a more substantial amount, but the important thing is it’s a start. For weeks or months that you don’t spend quite as much, put a bit more in savings than you normally do. Just commit to saving something,no matter how small the amount.

Make it Automatic.

When many people first start learning how to save money, they find it’s easiest when it isn’t a conscious decision. In other words, if you have your bank automatically transfer money into your savings account every time a paycheck is deposited, you won’t even see that money for long enough to consider spending it. If auto-transfers make you feel a bit out of control, take on that responsibility yourself.

Deny Yourself Access.

One of the hardest parts about saving money is seeing it accrue and knowing you could use it if you wanted to. If that sounds like a feeling you’re familiar with, do yourself a favor by setting up an account that’s a bit harder to access. For instance, ask your bank if they can add an account that can only be accessed by physically walking into a bank to make a withdrawal or using an ATM card. If you don’t have a debit card attached to it, you’ll be less likely to swipe first and regret later.

Keep Careful Track of Your Spending.

It goes without saying, but how much you spend has a direct impact on how much you’ll be able to save. If you know you have some spending problem areas (like eating out a lot or buying an unnecessary amount of upscale sneakers), focus on reducing those however you can. The best way to spend less (and save more) is to know where every dollar is going– then you can pull back in certain areas. If you can’t do this without a bit of help, try using budgeting apps like Mint, Mvelopes, or BillGuard to track your spending and come up with a financial plan.

Cut a Few Expenses (At Least for Now).

As you start keeping better track of your spending, look for certain regular expenses that you may be able to do away with completely. Are you still paying for cable that you rarely watch, a magazine subscription that goes unread more often than not, or a gym membership you could replace with free workouts in your apartment? Get creative, and know that you don’t have to give these things up forever. Even just cancelling for a few months can allow you some wiggle room to save more money faster.

You can also look at refinancing options for certain expenses, like car payments and student loans. See if you can spend less each month on those- at least for now while you’re working on building a savings account.

Find Ways to Earn More.

If you have some extra time on your schedule (even if you work a 9-to-5 office job it’s likely that you do), consider finding ways to earn some more money each month. Pick up dog walking or babysitting gigs, or even do some freelance work on the side. This is beneficial for two reasons: One, you’ll be making more money. And two, you may find yourself spending a bit less if you’re, say, babysitting on a Friday night instead of going out.

If you’re trying to figure out how to save money, remember: It’s doable, you just have to be committed, organized, and focused on an end goal. You can do it!

*Original article source courtesy of Forbes.com.