4 Personal Finance Myths: Busted!

A computer generated image of a chain with a broken link.Financial myths are a force behind one of the biggest threats to your financial future – yourself. Here are some personal finance myths that could be costing you money and endangering your future security.

Myth 1: Two incomes are better than one. Truth: Today’s families often have two incomes out of necessity. They make more money than a one-income family did a generation ago. But, by the time they pay for the basics – an average home, a second car to get the second spouse to work, child care, health insurance, taxes, and other essentials, that family actually has less money left over at the end of the month to show for it.

The assumption in the myth is that with two incomes you’re doubly secure. But if you’re counting on both of those incomes, then you’re in serious trouble if either income goes away. And, if you have two people in the workforce, you have double the chance that someone will get laid off, or that someone could get too sick to work.

Housing prices are rising twice as fast for families with kids, and a big reason is dwindling confidence in public schools. People are bidding up the prices on homes situated in school districts with good reputations. The only way for a typical family to afford one of those homes is for both spouses to work. Average mortgage expenses have risen 70 times faster than the average family’s primary income, so, families are required to keep two incomes.

When two incomes are a necessity, the question of whether two may be better than one is moot. Busting this particular myth means understanding the true financial stakes involved in deciding to have children and raising a family, based on your personal situation.

Myth 2: Owning is always better than renting. Truth: The money you pay for rent is a necessity like your other living expenses. Do you consider the money you spend on food to be wasted? What about the money you spend on gas? Both of these expenses are for items you purchase regularly that get used up and appear to have no lasting value, but are necessary to carry out daily activities.

If you own a home, unless you paid cash for it, you pay a mortgage (and it’s likely as much as you’d be spending on rent), plus other expenses like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.

The choice between owning and renting is often a financial toss up. Busting this myth means understanding the most important reason to buy a home. Decide how badly you want to settle down for the long-term and invest in a permanent residence.

First Financial offers a number of great mortgage options, including refinancing – click here to learn about our 10, 15, and 30 year mortgage features and see what a good fit for your home is!*

To receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.**

Myth 3: A near-perfect credit score will get you the best loan rate. Truth: Every expert, credit bureau, and loan officer has a different opinion as to where the threshold for excellent credit lies. In addition, “near-perfect” can be a relative term. Do we mean “near-perfect” as in “excellent,” or as in “perfect,” which doesn’t exist? Different loans and lenders have different standards.

Generally, any credit score in the mid-700 range and up is considered excellent credit, and will get you credit approvals and the best interest rates. But at this high end of credit scoring, extra points don’t always improve your loan terms much. Sure, the higher your score, the better. But even an extra 50 points in this range doesn’t always help you get a better rate on your next loan.

Those extra points can serve as a buffer if a negative item shows up on your credit report, however. For example, if you max out a credit card, you can get dinged 30-50 points. An extra 50 points would absorb the hit and minimize the possible damage.

So, there really is no “magic number” when it comes to credit scores. Busting this myth means understanding that more than just your score is taken into consideration. To get the loan you want, you may need a high credit score, no negatives in your credit file, and adequate income to afford it.

Credit score not where you want it to be? Try First Financial’s First Score Credit Counseling program; a low cost, interactive session with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

Myth 4: You need to earn more to save more. Truth: Your ability to save is defined by your discipline to sacrifice and set aside a percentage of your spending. Your income level is not really a factor. And no matter the amount, the younger you start saving, the more years you’ll have for your money and any interest earned to work its magic. You may decide you want to invest some of your savings too – talk to a financial planner and decide if investing in stocks and mutual funds might be a good option for your savings goals.

So, savings is not some arbitrary amount – but a discipline. Busting this myth means understanding that you need to sacrifice some of your spending now for financial security later. You simply have to decide how important that security is to you.

Consider how these personal finance myths and others like them could be contributing to money problems you’re experiencing now, and pose more serious trouble for your future.

“Busting” these myths offers the answers you need to take action and change your behavior with money – and assure your financial security.

Article Source: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/why-these-4-personal-finance-myths-perpetuate-money-problems-cm396086

*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 or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

 **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Add Kmart and Dairy Queen to the Latest Data Breach List and Check Your Statements!

Kmart_logoRecent data breach news reports have Dairy Queen admitting to a breach at as many as 395 stores between August and September 2014, and Sears Holding Co. disclosing that malware at Kmart point-of-sale registers stole customer debit and credit card data.

Kmart customers who shop in its Brick, Manahawkin, Toms River, or Wall, NJ stores may need to check their debit and credit card accounts, after the retailer discovered a data breach last week.

According to an article on APP.com, the company announced its payment system had been attacked by hackers who stole customers’ debit and credit card numbers. Kmart discovered the intrusion into its payment system on Thursday – but the investigation shows it goes back to early September 2014, Kmart said in a statement released Friday.

Kmart joins a list of other big companies, including retailers Target, Acme, and Home Depot, that have been attacked by hackers recently.

“According to the security experts we have been working with, our Kmart store payment data systems were infected with a form of malware that was undetectable by current anti-virus systems,” the company said in a statement. “We were able to quickly remove the malware. However, we believe certain debit and credit card numbers have been compromised.”

No personal information, debit card PIN numbers, email addresses, or Social Security numbers were obtained by the hackers, the company said. There also is no evidence that Kmart.com customers were affected. Dairy_Queen logo

In late August, Dairy Queen announced its data breach after it was reported by KrebsonSecurity, which placed the attacks as early as June 2014.

Dairy Queen and Kmart have said there is no indication that Social Security numbers, personal identification numbers, or email addresses were taken in these incidents. Krebs also reported on the malware incident at Kmart, which posted a notice Friday about the malware incident.

In related news, federal investigators reportedly believe the hackers who breached JPMorgan Chase over the summer also stole information from Fidelity Investments, according to the Wall Street Journal. The paper’s sources do not believe the breach of Fidelity was on the same scale as the JPMorgan breach affecting contact information for as many as 76 million households.

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’ credit and debit accounts against unauthorized access and use. Here’s a quick update for your peace of mind:

  • 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.
  • It is also a good practice for members to keep a watchful eye on their accounts and transactions and look for any unauthorized activity or purchases.

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.

Article Sources:

http://www.app.com/story/money/business/consumer/2014/10/10/kmart-hacker-attack/17080339/

http://patch.com/new-jersey/wall/do-you-shop-wall-kmart-check-your-credit-and-debit-cards-0?utm_source=newsletter-daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=business&utm_campaign=newsletter#.VD0z5WddUuc

http://www.nafcu.org/News/2014_News/October/Dairy_Queen__Kmart_in_latest_data_breach_stories/

 

8 Steps to Protect Against Credit Card Fraud

Secure purchasesIn light of recent retailer data breaches and with credit and debit card fraud becoming more frequent, be sure to read and follow these 8 steps to protect yourself and your identity from being stolen.

1. Be sure to get a new replacement credit or debit card if yours was compromised. If you suspect fraudulent transactions on your card and your financial institution hasn’t contacted you or provided you with a replacement card – be sure to call and request one.

2. Check your bank account register and credit card activity online to see whether your card was used at Home Depot or at any other place that was recently hacked. Don’t wait for your print statement to come in the mail; check the latest account activity digitally by signing up for online access to your account information or by using a mobile banking app. Also watch out for changes to your debit card PIN.

3. Be alert for post-breach phishing attempts. Hackers don’t always get everything they need to break into your accounts, so they will typically send you e-mails or even call on the phone and pose as your bank or card issuer to try to trick you into giving up the missing pieces, including mother’s maiden name, account username and password, date of birth, and Social Security Number. Do not give this information out – your bank will never call, text, or email you for the information you already provided when you opened your account.

4. Lock down your credit report with a security freeze, which essentially shuts off access to your credit history by new would-be lenders. If a hacker applies for a loan in your name, the creditor is less likely to approve it if he or she can’t see your credit file. Freezes are typically free for victims of identity theft, which you are if you paid with plastic at Home Depot between April and September of this year.

5. Get as many as 18 free credit reports per year so you can regularly monitor them and keep an eye out for fraudulent new accounts. You can get three free credit reports (one from each credit bureau) from annualcreditreport.com and three more in many states that also mandate free annual reports.

You’re also entitled to a free credit report from each bureau after you file a 90-day fraud alert, which you should do every 90 days if you’ve been a victim of the Home Depot or other data breach, or have a good-faith suspicion that you’re about to become a victim of identity fraud.

6. Ask merchants big or small if they’re PCI-DSS compliant. If they don’t know or have not even heard of this most basic of data security measures, pay with a credit card, rather than debit card, because fraud theft from your checking account/debit card can set off a cascade of headaches, including penalty fees for bounced checks or insufficient funds.

7. Change your passwords regularly on your various financial accounts and use strong passwords to thwart hackers and protect yourself online.

8. Don’t panic, but take the breach threat seriously, because this problem is now a fact of life until the big payment card brands, banks, and retailers improve the security of payment processing systems in the U.S.

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!**

*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.

Article Source: Jeff Blyskal for Fox Business, http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/09/23/steps-to-protect-against-credit-card-fraud/

 

Personal Finance: 5 Areas You Shouldn’t Ignore

piggy bank savings - top viewPersonal finance is not just something to think about now and then, such as when you review your bank statement – it affects your life on a daily basis. Ask yourself how well prepared you are in each of the 5 personal finance items below, and how you might be able to do better.

1. Credit and Debt

If you have significant credit card debt, you should pay it down as quickly as you can. Fortunately, it can be done. One good strategy is tackling your highest-interest-rate debt first. Switching to paying for most things with cash instead of credit cards can also help by reining in spending.

Beyond that, you need to strive for a spotless credit report and strong credit score. Check your credit report regularly, have errors fixed, and build a high score. Healthy credit is a key aspect of personal finance.

Need to get your credit score in check? Try First Financial’s First Score Program, a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

If you have a great deal of debt, we also have a free, anonymous online debt management tool called Debt in Focus. 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, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

2. Insurance

Yes, you might have home insurance, car insurance, and health insurance, but how about life insurance if anyone relies on your income? How about renter’s insurance if you rent your home or apartment? This personal finance category also includes umbrella insurance that offers excess liability protection, which insures you against lawsuits. Disability insurance can protect your income stream in case you become unable to work. Long-term care insurance can support you if you need to be cared for at home or in an assisted-living facility for a while. It’s well worth exploring, as you’re more likely to need it than you might expect, and buying it while you’re relatively young can save you money in the long run.

3. Real Estate

This personal finance category includes buying a home, owning and maintaining one, and selling it at some point. To do well in this category, you need to maintain a strong credit rating and qualify for a low-interest-rate mortgage. You might opt for a 15-year mortgage to build equity faster. It’s important to take good care of your home but you should also think twice before embarking on expensive remodelings that might not let you recoup most of their cost.

It’s also smart to consider refinancing your mortgage at some point. Conventional wisdom suggests that it’s smart to do so when you can snag an interest rate about 1 percentage point lower than your current one. That’s not enough of a reason though, be sure that you plan to stay in the home long enough for the savings to outweigh the closing costs.

If you’re looking to purchase or refinance a home, First Financial has a variety of options available to you, including 10, 15, and 30 year mortgages. We offer great low rates, no pre-payment penalties, easy application process, financing on your primary residence, vacation home or investment property, plus so much more! For rates and more information, call us at 866.750.0100, Option 4 for the Lending Department.*

You can also sign up for our Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service to receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone. To be a part of the program, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** 

4. Taxes

Smart taxpayers make smart tax decisions all year long. Here’s a tip that not enough people take advantage of: Set up and use a flexible spending account throughout the year. It lets you put aside pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified health care expenses.

5. Estate Planning

This is another critical area of personal finance. Your estate plan might include a will, a durable power of attorney, a living will, advance medical directives, beneficiary designations on financial accounts, and possibly a trust. Don’t assume you have everything covered with just a will, as you might be able to save your loved ones a lot of headaches, heartache, and money with some more planning and preparation. A living, or revocable trust, for example, can let you avoid the sometimes long and costly (and public) process by directing how your property is to be handled before and after your death.

There’s a lot more to learn about each of these personal finance topics. Spend a little time on them, and you may find that they’re not so boring, and the prospect of saving a lot of money (and being able to spend it now or in retirement) is exciting. And if you need help, don’t be afraid to consult a financial professional.

Questions about retirement savings, estate planning, or investments?  If you would like to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 866.750.0100 or stop in to see us!***

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

**Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

***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. Non-deposit 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. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source:  http://www.fool.com/how-to-invest/personal-finance/2014/08/10/personal-finance-5-areas-you-cant-ignore.aspx by Selena Maranjian.

Important Member Alert: Shellshock Cyber Security Threat Update

cyber-security shellshockIf you’re trying to navigate the news concerning Shellshock, you can be forgiven for thinking the coverage is written in another language. The official name for the exploit, CVE-2014-6271, sounds like it should come from a “Star Trek” character. It’s not easy to explain and it’s even harder to figure out what to do about it. Let’s first see what the exploit is and then see what you need to do to keep yourself safe.

Shellshock is an exploitable security gap in Bash, one of the most popular operating environments for Internet backbone computers. Bash support is rare for home computers and is disabled by default on OSX and Windows devices. It’s extremely common though, on email and website hosting servers, which usually run Linux-based operating systems. Shellshock allows hackers to operate servers remotely, installing and operating software, accessing data and executing operations.

It might seem like Shellshock is a problem for other people, but it’s a serious security concern for everyone. From hotels to credit card companies, Bash-operated computers are everywhere in e-commerce, and unless they’re using a patch that was released on 9/29/14, they’re vulnerable to remote manipulation. This could put sensitive data at risk. More seriously, hackers can use remote servers to distribute malware and engage in further acts of cyber crime.

How many computers were affected by the bug? It’s difficult to say. The flaw was discovered on 9/26/14 and exists on devices other than computers. Automated engineering equipment, database maintenance computers, and even facilities management machines run variants of Linux that rely on Bash. Many of these devices were set up with the expectation they would never need software maintenance, so getting an accurate count of devices is impossible. Early estimates by security experts at HP suggest that the loophole could affect a half-billion computers in America.

Worse yet, the exploit has been embedded in the system for as much as 22 years. Linux archivists charged with tracing the flaw claim that the bug may have been allowing limited access to online machines since 1992.

First Financial updates our systems regularly and your data security is the highest priority. Our systems were updated immediately upon announcement of the threat’s discovery and we will always keep our members informed of any threats to their privacy.

There are steps you can take to protect your privacy online, as well:

1. Do not install any software that claims to fix this patch unless it comes from the manufacturer of your operating system. There are two ways cybersecurity problems cause damage: first, the damage of the actual attack, and second, the collateral damage from the panic and insecurity in the wake of the crisis. Many opportunistic criminals will use the confusion surrounding the bug to distribute malware and other harmful programs. Unless you have specifically enabled Bash on your PC, Mac, or mobile device, you do not need to install any new programs to stop the bug.

2. Change your passwords. One of the common commands hackers run with Shellshock is to download a list of passwords and account names. If you’ve used a password somewhere, assume that password is no longer secure. Choose a new, strong password. If you’re struggling, try using the four random words strategy pioneered by cryptologist Randall Munroe. Put four random words together, capitalize the first letter of each word, and put a number and a piece of punctuation on the end – like FootballAnarchyMondayCamden4! – to create an easy-to-remember but hard-to-guess password.

3. Keep a careful eye on your account and card statements. Watch for small, recurring charges. For many hackers, the easiest way to make a living is to steal a dollar a month from a thousand people. The odds of getting caught are lower than trying to steal a thousand dollars from one person and the profits are the same. If you see suspicious activity, call your issuing financial institution immediately to put a hold order on the account.

4. Avoid storing your credit card information with online retailers. Not only can this expose you to identity theft, but it can also make it easier to impulse spend. Shellshock is not the last security bug we will see. It is smartest to begin expecting this level of insecurity and keeping your personal information in as few places online as possible.

Should you have any further questions or concerns regarding this matter, please contact Member Services at 866.750.0100 or email info@firstffcu.com.

Article Source: CUcontent.com

Receive 2% Cash Back When You Finance Your Auto Loan Through the End of 2014!

NewAutoLoanEmailBanner

When you finance your Auto Loan with First Financial, you will be eligible to receive 2% cash back for a limited time!

Program details include:

  • 2% cash back in the form of a check, issued after the first auto loan payment is made.*
  • Cash back can be used to purchase gas, or use however else you wish!
  • 2% cash back minimum of $100, and maximum amount of $1,000.
  • Minimum Auto Loan amount eligible for participation is $10,000 – which can be a refinance or new Auto Loan.

 Apply online by clicking on one of the links below:

Enter promo code 2% Cash Back on your online application in the Comments section on page 3 of your online application, in the Loan Information section.

Plus – regardless of if you purchase a new or preowned vehicle, our Auto Loan rates are the same! We also invite you to check out our free online car shopping and research tool, AutoSMART and calculate your future car payments in advance using AutoCalcubot.

If you have additional questions, please stop into any one of our branches and speak to a representative or call us at 866.750.0100, Option 4 for the Loan Department.

Happy Car Shopping!

*Offer valid from 10/2/14 – 12/31/14. Cash back amount will be 2% of the approved First Financial auto loan amount, $100 minimum and $1,000 maximum, payable after the first loan payment is made and within 30 days after receiving the title with the perfected lien showing First Financial FCU as lien holder. Minimum loan amount eligible for participation is $10,000 and can be a refinance or new auto loan. All cash back checks must be picked up at the nearest First Financial branch location. This prize or a portion of this prize may be income reportable to the IRS on 1099-MISC and requires completion of a W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification form. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.