Unfortunate Home Improvements

Home-Improvement-ProjectHome improvement projects can be a lot of fun — and sometimes add value to your home — but are they worth the money they cost? If you have plans to one day move out of your home (or even if you don’t), you should consider how the project impacts the resale value. Below are some home improvement projects that are typically not worth the cash.

A new pool. We can’t blame you for wanting a pool. However, keep in mind that the cost of installing one and then maintaining it is quite high. Also, if you’re planning on selling down the road, remember that some buyers could be turned off by a pool, like parents with small children.

Extensive customization. While a lot of people might like a kitchen backsplash, the type of backsplash makes a big difference. You shouldn’t go overboard customizing (particularly if you’ve got unusual taste), because if you do, you could risk alienating buyers down the road.

Half measures. If you can add a bedroom, great. Those often are worth the money. However, don’t add square footage to your home in bits and pieces. Eventually the home will look disjointed, and buyers typically want a home that flows well.
Taking away a bedroom. Buyers will want a certain number of bedrooms, so try to avoid converting them when considering altering your space.

First Financial’s Home Improvement Loan is designed to help you create the home you’ve been imagining. It’s time to move your “wants” to the top of your to-do list.*

*Available on primary residence only, subject to underwriting guidelines. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. See credit union for details.

Article courtesy of Chris O’Shea of SavvyMoney.com.

Thinning Out the Document Mess

files_pileWhen’s the last time you took a peek at the filing cabinets in your home office?  A lifetime of financial matters means accumulating a lifetime of documents. Let’s get a grip on things and whittle down the mess. Below is a list of the financial documents you should keep and for how long.

  • Tax returns. The IRS recommends keeping these for at least three years.
  • Investments. Just like the tax returns, keep capital gains tax reports and 1099 forms for at least three years.
  • 401(k) statements. Save the end of year and quarterly statements for the current year. After that, shred them.
  • Pay stubs, credit card, and bank statements. If all is well with your accounts (they are balanced and there is no fraud) go ahead and get rid of these items.
  • Loans. Keep one statement with your current balance. If you have paid the loan off, keep the final statement for at least seven years.
  • Insurance policies. Keep them until the policy is no longer in use.
  • Medical records. Medical bills from your insurance, hospital bills and other medical-related statements should be kept for five years.
  • Real estate records. Keep any purchase, sale or home improvement receipts for as long as you own the underlying asset.

Getting organized is an important step in getting on top of your finances – happy organizing!

*Article courtesy of Chris O’Shea of SavvyMoney.com.

Learn “Blogging for Business: Content Marketing 101” at this Seminar in September 2015

Fotolia_38223665_Subscription_Monthly_XL-1024x709With organic reach numbers free falling on Facebook, the importance of owning your media vs. renting it, is becoming more and more evident. Blogging is becoming the go-to avenue for “expertise” information on endless topics and enables you to reach a vast target audience. This seminar will teach all attendees the basics of blogging for your business and how you can get started right away!

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • What is content marketing and why is it important?
  • Where content ideas come from
  • WordPress basics, favorite plugins, and more
  • How to build your readership and sustain engagement

Join us on Thursday, September 17th for networking at 8:30am and then promptly at 9:00am for our business seminar titled, Blogging for Business: Content Marketing 101, presented by Deborah Smith, owner of Foxtrot Media, LLC. Cost to attend this seminar is $10. The seminar will be held at First Financial’s Corporate Office located at 1800, Rt. 34 North, Building 3, Suite 302, Wall NJ. Space is limited – Register today!

Deborah Smith is the owner of Foxtrot Media, LLC a Social Media Consulting and Management company. Deborah got her start in social media over 12 years ago when she launched an E-Commerce business which operated a network of websites serving the Nanny Industry. She began employing email groups, chat rooms and online message boards as marketing and networking tools well before the term “Social Media” was ever conceived. When the new tools like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn emerged, Deborah was an early adopter and soon mastered these tools for her own business. In 2007, she launched her first blog, JerseyBites.com, a collaborative food blog with over 35 contributors throughout the state. JerseyBites now welcomes over 25,000 visitors per month and was recently named content partner to NJ.com for food news in New Jersey. Deborah was also recently named one of 100 Constant Contact local experts in the country. She is an experienced corporate trainer and social media consultant for businesses throughout the tri-state area.

330,000 Possibly Affected by IRS Data Breach

data breachA breach of an IRS computer database reported in May 2015 affected as many as 330,000 taxpayers, reports said Monday, August 17th.

Reports this past May said that thieves used stolen Social Security Numbers and other information in an effort to access prior-year tax return information for about 225,000 U.S. households. This included about 114,000 successful and 111,000 unsuccessful attempts, the report said.

The IRS has now said a review going back to November 2014 shows that another 390,000 taxpayers may have been affected, new reports say – including some 220,000 households for which prior-year return data may have been accessed and another 170,000 instances where there were attempts that failed to clear the authentication process.

The breaches involved use of an online application, “Get Transcript,” that allowed taxpayers to get prior-year return information, the reports said. This application has reportedly been shut down.

The IRS reportedly also noted that while just a few thousand of affected taxpayer accounts were targeted in efforts to defraud, it thinks hackers may be gathering data to use for fraudulent purposes during the 2016 tax-filing season.

If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, you can place a fraud alert on your credit file by calling any one of the three major credit reporting agencies shown below. A fraud alert is a notation on your credit file to warn credit issuers that there may be a problem. The credit issuer is asked to contact you at the telephone number that you supply to validate that you are the person applying for the credit. This is not the same as credit monitoring.

TransUnion: 1.800.916.8800

Experian: 1.888.397.3742    

Equifax: 1.800.685.1111

In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, it is permissible for consumers to request a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax).

To order a free credit report: 

Online: www.annualcreditreport.com or by Telephone: 1.877.322.8228

First Financial would like to remind our members that your accounts with us are monitored 24/7 by an experienced team of security professionals for any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity. First Financial employs the most advanced fraud detection and prevention technology to guard members’ accounts against unauthorized access and use. If our security team observes any unusual activity on member accounts, we will contact members immediately to determine whether the transaction activity is legitimate and authorized.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

We will continue to monitor all members’ 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. Thank you for being a valued member of First Financial.

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

 

Avoiding Money Wiring Scams

financial crookImposters. Impersonators. Fakes. Frauds. Phonies. You might call them by different names, but these scam artists have one thing in common: they pretend to be someone they aren’t and tell you a bogus story to con you into wiring them money.

The crooks will give you a pretty convincing reason to wire money. They might say you owe the IRS taxes and you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay up. Or that you won a federal grant and have to pay a processing fee to get your money. Some even tell you a loved one’s in trouble and needs your help.

They might tell you to use a money wiring service to add funds to a 16-digit account number they give you — they say it’s your case number or account number, but it’s not. Once the transfer goes through, the money’s gone and you can’t get it back.

Government agencies will never ask you to pay by wiring money. Neither will legitimate businesses. If someone insists you pay by wiring money, it’s a scam. Don’t do it. Instead, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP.

 

Want to help the people you care about avoid a money wiring scam? Watch the short video: Money Wiring Scams

 

Article Source: Alvaro Puig for http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/avoiding-money-wiring-scams?utm_source=govdelivery

 

10 Ways to Save Money Before Labor Day

end of summer savingsLabor Day is only about a month away, which means summer is coming to an end. It also means your bank account might be bracing for a hit as you squeeze in a trip, start stocking up on back-to-school items for your children, or send a child off to college.

To prepare for these and other costs, you can take several steps to lower your expenses and save money on things you need to buy this month. Here are 10 ways you can save money before Labor Day:

1. Lower Your Cooling Costs.

If you’re cranking up your air conditioner to combat a heat wave, be prepared for a hefty electric bill. To keep costs low and stay cool, try the following tips:

  • Fans cost less to operate than air conditioners. You can raise your thermostat by four degrees and feel no reduction in comfort if you turn a fan on also.
  • You can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15% by replacing or cleaning dirty filters.
  • Cook outside using a grill to avoid heating your home with your oven.

2. Freeze Your Gym Membership.

If you’re not using your gym membership because you’re exercising outdoors or taking a summer trip, then freeze your membership. Putting your membership on hold can allow you to avoid any early termination fees if you have a year long contract, and save money on your membership fee during months when you’re not using the gym.

3. Save on School and Office Supplies.

Families are expected to spend an average of $97.94 on supplies such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks for school-age children this year, according to the National Retail Federation. You can keep the cost of school supplies under control by shopping back-to-school sales at retailers such as Target and Walmart, and office supply stores such as Staples.

Even if you don’t have kids, you can benefit from these sales – especially for office supplies.  Plus, you’ll find great deals on laptop computers in August as part of back-to-school sales, according to DealNews.com.

4. Take Advantage of Sales-Tax Holidays.

Seventeen states have back-to-school sales-tax holidays in August, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. These holidays offer consumers an opportunity to avoid sales tax on clothing, footwear and school supplies. Some states even waive the sales tax on computers.

5. Start Price-Shopping for Holiday Travel.

The winter holidays are months away but now is the time to start comparing airfares “so you can lock in a good price when you find one,” said Holly Johnson, a frugal travel expert who blogs at ClubThrifty.com. To get the best price on airline tickets, you need to book flights at least 27 to 114 days in advance, according to a study by CheapAir.com. Flights for holiday travel fill up quickly, so you’re better off booking sooner rather than later.

6. Sign Up for a Rewards Credit Card.

If you are going to do some back-to-school shopping, book holiday travel or take a trip before Labor Day, take some of the sting out of that extra spending by using a credit card rewards.

Here at First Financial we offer a Visa Platinum Credit Card* with no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, and a CURewards program where you can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise items, travel, and so much more! PLUS, we’re currently offering an introductory rate of 2.9% APR for the first 6 months on all purchases and balance transfers.**

7. Get Freebies From the Library.

If you have kids, you’re likely hearing them complain by now that they have nothing to do. To fend off boredom, take them to the local library to pick out books and DVDs for free. Whether or not you have children, you also can take advantage of free programs at your library, such as writing workshops or lecture series, in an air-conditioned environment.

8. Watch Inexpensive or Free Flicks.

Another way to keep the kids entertained in the weeks before school starts — without spending a lot of money — is to take advantage of discounted family movies at theaters. For example, Regal Entertainment Group, which operates 569 theaters in 42 states, charges just $1 for tickets for family movies at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Additionally, plenty of communities offer free movies in parks. Check for listings on community calendars, the parks and recreation department, or local government websites.  Or check out our First Scoop Blog’s monthly things to do on a budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties series!

9. Cut Food Costs With Seasonal Produce.

A great way to lower your grocery bill is to buy produce that is in season where you live, because the prices will be lower on those fruits and vegetables than ones shipped in from other areas of the country or other parts of the world. You should be able to take advantage of late summer fruit and vegetable harvests to save money this month.

10. Snag Summer Clothing on Clearance.

Retailers are making way for fall clothing in preparation for back-to-school shopping crowds, which means you can score serious savings on summer apparel. Expect discounts of 60% or more on summer staples, which you’ll still be able to wear for a few months and into colder months by layering. If you shop before Labor Day, you’ll have a better and bigger selection.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**The 2.9% promotional rate will apply to purchases and balance transfers only for six statement cycles from the new account holder’s initial balance and/or initial transfer to the First Financial VISA Platinum card. The balance transfer promotional rate does NOT apply to purchases or cash advances.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/10-ways-save-money-before-labor-day/