Things to do in Monmouth & Ocean Counties on a Budget this February 2013

Get out of the house and do something fun with your family and friends this month! All these great activities can be found locally within the Monmouth and Ocean County communities. So, why not plan ahead and enjoy a day (or two) to relax with these free or inexpensive activities!

Saturday, February 2nd: Take some quiet time and enjoy the Silent Film Festival! Roxy Films organist, Bernie Anderson, will be the accompanist for the afternoon feature film, the romantic 1927 comedy, My Best Girl starring America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford in her final silent film performance. This event will take place from 2-4pm at the Monmouth County Library at 2700Allaire Rd., the Wall Twp. Branch. Call 732-449-8877 for registration and more information.

Sunday, February 3rd: Be amazed at this acrobatic experience with thePeking Acrobats at Ocean County Community College’s Arts & Community Center. Since their Western debut in 1986, The Peking Acrobats have redefined audience perceptions of Chinese acrobats. They perform daring maneuvers atop a precarious pagoda of chairs; they are expert at trick-cycling, precision tumbling, somersaulting, and gymnastics. They defy gravity with amazing displays of contortion, flexibility, and control. They push the envelope of human possibility with astonishing juggling dexterity and incredible balancing feats, showcasing tremendous skill and ability. The Peking Acrobats are an Ocean County favorite and have sold out previous appearances. Event begins promptly at 2pm – for tickets please call (732)255-0500 or visit

Saturday, February 9th: Join a group of photographers at the Grounds For Sculpture (Hamilton) 2013 Focus on Sculpture Juror for this all new and adventurous winter photo-walk. Utilizing 42-acres and 270 sculptures as inspiration and subject, there will pointers provided on composition and perspective to help you hone your skills. Remember it is February and we might get lucky and have some snow on the ground to set off the sculptures.  Dress warm, wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget your hat! A digital point and shoot camera or DSLR is required. A knowledge of navigation in your camera modes, functions and menus is recommended. This workshop will run rain or shine – in case of extreme weather, there are some great indoorgalleries. To reserve your spot for the event from 1:30-3:30pm, call Grounds For Sculpture directly at 609-586-0616.

Saturday, February 9th & Sunday, February 10th: Are you a chocolate-a-holic? Why not enjoy an entire weekend of it at Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce’s Chocolate Lovers’ Weekend! Saturday events begin at the Chamber Office, 45 Pilgrim Pathway starting with a Hunt for Hearts 10:30am-4pm, a Tour of Inns 11am-4pm, followed by special Chocolate Lovers’ Dinner at O.G. Restaurants. Sunday events begin again at the Chamber Office, with a Winter Walk 12-3pm. Free admission. Sign up today!

Sunday, February 10th: Just in time for Valentine’s Day, drop into HistoricWalnford (Upper Freehold) from 1-4pm for their Roses are Red, Violets are Blue event to see a small display of beautiful 19th century valentines. They invite you to make a token of affection using the materials provided for your sweetheart, inspired by historical examples. For more information on any of these activities, call: 609-259-6275.

Friday, February 15th: Get in touch with your poetic side and attend Monmouth University’s PoemJazz with Robert Pinsky & Friends. Robert Pinsky, Three-time U.S. poet laureate and author of several acclaimed books of poetry, prose, and translation will bring his verse to life on the PollakTheatre stage in a reading with musical accompaniment. Located in the PollakTheatre on Monmouth University’s campus in West Long Branch at 7:30pm.

Saturday, February 16th & Sunday, February 17th: It’s Valentine’s Day Weekend, why not explore and enjoy award-winning wines, live music and desserts with your significant other at Laurita Winery, 35 Archertown Road, New Egypt from 12-9pm. The best part is that it’s FREE admission! For more information you can visit the link above or call 609-758-8000.

Saturday, February 23rd: When the temperatures drop, the Polar Bears Plunge! Sign up for the 20th Annual Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics of New Jersey. The event has been typically held in Seaside Heights for the last six years, but has been moved to Long Branch for 2013. Registration begins at 9am, Plunge is at 1pm. Radio station NJ 101.5’s Big Joe Henry, “the Voice of the Plunge” will broadcast live on Plunge Day with interviews, updates and a countdown to Plunge. For more information, visit the link above or call 609.896.8000.

Also, feel free to check out this website for a list of places who participate in giving away FREE FOOD for the month of February! From pancakes, to coffee, to ice cream it all sounds good to us – another reason to get out of the house and enjoy some quality time with family and friends!

Have fun and enjoy!

Why You Should Become a SEG: Features and Benefits

downtobusinessheader-resized-600In 2012, we focused on how to build, plan and market your business. This year, we’re going to change direction a bit and narrow in on employee relations and how that matters to a business. Something you may want to consider is becoming a financial partner, what we call Select Employee Groups (SEGs). A SEG is a group of employees or members of an organization that is based in, or has an office in Monmouth or Ocean County. SEGs offer Credit Union membership as a no-cost benefit to their employees by working together with First Financial to create a cooperative financial services program.

The products and services offered by First Financial to its SEGs when a partnership is formed can add real, direct value to the organization’s benefit package – resulting in a stronger, more robust benefits package and a more effective way to attract and retain the best and brightest individuals.

We provide employees with the education, tools and resources to gain control over their financial lives, and as a result become more productive while at work. Educational blogs are available on diverse topics that benefit our members’ financial well being. The services offered go well beyond traditional banking products to include free financial education seminars, such as budgeting and credit management. Personalized seminars can be offered at convenient times at each business’ location. If you are interested in setting this up for your company, please contact Business Development or call us at 866.750.0100.

Join us next month for these great seminars:

Your employees will also have the opportunity to use these great financial tools available on our website 24/7:

As a SEG, you will also have access to our Ambassador Portal, a free tool available to all Ambassadors/SEGs which offers a desktop presence of the Credit Union that can be used at your place of business in order to keep up to date on:

  • Our current promotions
  • Events and seminars
  • Online account openings
  • Downloadable First Financial brochures
  • And so much more!

By becoming a SEG it will offer your employees financial peace of mind knowing they are getting the best financial service and benefits possible.Take advantage of this great opportunity and become a SEG today!

How Much is Your Habit Costing You?

bad-habits-resized-600We all have little habits that tend to drain our finances. Perhaps it’s soda, online games, cigarettes, beer, magazine subscriptions, gambling, wine, or movies. No matter what your poison, if it costs you time or money, it should be examined closely.

Health and moral concerns aside, the wise consumer will examine his or her habits to determine if the benefits outweigh the costs, or if cutbacks are necessary to restore a healthy balance in one’s budget. One of the first steps in this process is to determine what you get (the benefits) out of your habits, and try to place a monetary value on those benefits.

For example, if you like to get a weekly massage, you can list several potential benefits from this activity, like so:

  • Health benefits: Many medical professionals recommend massage to reduce stress, increase circulation, and improve lymph drainage. If your health is compromised, or if you experience a lot of stress in your personal or work life, the monetary health benefits can be extraordinary. Let’s say four massages a week replaces a prescription muscle relaxer. In this case, we could say your monthly massages are worth $80 a month in health benefits.
  • Productivity benefits: In our example, we could imagine weekly massages increase your work performance by reducing stress, allowing you to complete two extra projects a month. The productivity benefits could total $400 a month.
  • Happiness benefits: If your massages bring you immense joy, you are less likely to spend money on other pursuits of happiness, and you can also place a monetary value on how your habit makes you feel. What’s your habit worth to you? How much would you pay to continue it? For our massage example, we could say our happiness value for this habit is about as pleasant as mowing the lawn is unpleasant. If we pay a lawn service $30 an hour, our massages would be worth $30 an hour in happiness, or $120 a month.

That’s a total estimated monetary benefit of $600 a month.

The next step is to calculate what your habit costs you. Not only will you have to determine your out-of-pocket expense (in this case, the cost we pay for the massages), but also such things as the cost of managing negative health impacts, transportation and maintenance costs, and the effect your habit has on your relationships.

  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: For our massage example, let’s say the cost of a weekly massage is $65 plus tip, equaling $308 a month.
  • Transportation: If we travel 20 miles round-trip to the spa, we’ll estimate it costs you $0.74 per mile to maintain and operate your vehicle, equaling $59.20 per month in travel costs to our support our massage habit.
  • Time: The time you invest in your habit is also considered a deduction. Our massage habit takes up four hours a week, plus two hours of travel time each month. If your time is worth $40 an hour, you’re losing $240 worth of time every month.

For our massage habit example, our total cost is $607.20.

Our conclusion is a weekly massage habit costs us $7.20 a month. Is it worth it? That’s where you need to decide if cutbacks are necessary. If you don’t want to drop your habit, try finding ways to reduce the impact of the overall cost to make your habit a wise choice.

Do you have questions about any of your financial habits or would you like to make an appointment with a financial representative to discuss your financial plans?

Contact a Financial Representative

Article Source:

* First Financial is not responsible for the content listed on any external websites.

13 Money Tips for 2013

This year is going to be a long one if any of you suffer from triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. To lessen the anxiety, consider these 13 money tips for 2013.

1. Track your expenses. Almost every financial plan starts with this most dreaded task. Unfortunately, without understanding where your money goes, it’s nearly impossible to make different choices about how to spend. The good news is that there are plenty of software programs to help you out, or you can use a plain old spreadsheet. You can also attend First Financial’s FREE budgeting seminar on 1/23 and take home a customizable budget worksheet to reuse over and over again!

2. Establish adequate emergency reserve funds. Perhaps the single best way to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances is to hold 6 to 12 months of living expenses in cash or cash equivalent accounts. For those in retirement, consider carrying 12 to 24 months of expenses. Don’t forget to replenish cash reserves for any bills that are coming up over the next year.

3. Earn more on your safe money. Sure, interest  and dividend rates are low, but with a little work you can squeeze out some extra money. Shop around at a credit union like First Financial for a savings certificate*, and consider “I-bonds,” a kind of savings bond issued by the U.S. government, from

*First Financial FCU is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. 

4. Get a handle on your risk tolerance. Before you make big changes to your investment accounts, take a risk assessment questionnaire, from our financial advisor. The results should help you re-balance your portfolio in a manner that is consistent with your needs and takes into account your emotions.

Also, we encourage all of our members to utilize our FREE debt management tool, Debt in Focus. With it’s upgraded features and benefits, in just minutes (quicker than ever before!) users will receive a thorough analysis of their financial situation by answering a few questions, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help control debt, build a budget, and start living the way you would like to. So don’t forget about this great tool to help organize your finances!

5. Determine whether you should manage your money or hire someone to do it. Do you have the time, energy, acumen and temperament necessary to successfully manage all of the components of your financial life? If not, it could be time to interview a financial professional and you’re in luck! Here at First Financial we have our own financial advisor who is here to help you! If you would like to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center** to discuss your savings goals, contact Financial Advisor Louis Paolillo at or call 732.312.1565.

**Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investement risk, may lose value, and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the Credit Union.

6. Stop trying to beat the market. “Most investors are not beating the market; the market is beating them,” says Charles D. Ellis, a consultant to large institutional investors. Ellis conducted research that found that only one in five mutual fund managers beats the index over the long run. With those odds, investors would be wise to replace actively individual stocks and managed mutual funds with index or exchange-traded funds.

7. Calculate your retirement number. Many people say they are worried about retirement, but most of them haven’t done any planning to help themselves. Any conversation about retirement must start with an easy step — calculating how much in savings people need to ensure a financially secure retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s “Choose to Save Ballpark E$timate” tool is easy to use, or check out your retirement plan/401(k) website for more retirement tools. We also encourage you to contact our financial advisor, Louis Paolillo for your retirement plans and investments.***

***Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investement risk, may lose value, and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the Credit Union.

8. Maximize retirement contributions. The federal government is helping on this front by increasing the 2013 limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the government’s Thrift Savings Plan to $17,500 from $17,000. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over remains unchanged, at $5,500. The limit on annual contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs will rise by $500 to $5,500.

9. Consider buying a home. The real estate market is recovering, which means that those who have been sitting on the sidelines may want to take the plunge on a new home. Still, make sure you weigh whether you are better off renting or buying with this NY Times calculator and click here to use our home calculator on our webpage to help you find out how much home you can afford.

10. Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are at historically low rates and appraisals are starting to rise, so even if you haven’t been able to refinance in the past couple of years, try again. Use this re-fi calculator to determine how much you may be able to save or how many years you could potentially shave off the term of your mortgage.

First Financial has just added a 10 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage**** to our mortgage options! If you thought you could never afford to pay your mortgage off in 10 years – think again! Shortening the term of your mortgage makes the single largest difference in the interest that you pay – even more than a lower rate. The new 10 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage from First Financial gives you the best of both worlds with a historically low rate and a short term that most lenders won’t offer. We’re even limiting the closing costs so that our members get the most savings possible. For more information on our new 10 year mortgage and other mortgage options, visit this blog post.

****First Financial FCU is an Equal Housing Lender.

11. Assess your property insurance, Superstorm Sandy was a painful lesson in the limits of homeowners insurance. The best time to review your policy is before an event occurs, not after. The three biggest mistakes people make with homeowners insurance are: 1) under-insuring; 2) shopping by price only and not comparing apples to apples; and 3) not reading policy details before a loss occurs.

12. Review life, disability and long-term care insurance coverage. This is the part of your financial life where an error can cause huge damage to your family. For life insurance, make sure you have enough with this online calculator. Nine times out of 10, term life insurance is the best bet. For disability insurance, enroll in your company’s plan, if offered. If you are self-employed, shop around and buy at least some coverage. If you’re over 50, time to shop around for long-term care insurance.

13. Create/review/update estate documents: Hire a lawyer to prepare a will, power of attorney and health care proxy/living will documents. If you prefer doing it yourself, you can use software like Quicken WillMaker. As part of the process, create a go-to list of documents, which can include key information about investment accounts, insurance policies, auto titles, income tax returns. Estate records and final instructions also should be stored in a safe place — don’t forget to provide copies to your executor or trustee.

Click here to view the article source.

*First Financial is not responsible for the content listed on external websites.


Wall High School’s Reality Fair Video

As many of you know, we sponsored our first ever financial Reality Fair last month at Wall High School and it was a tremendous success. There were about 150 students who participated in the financial Reality Fair, many of who were a part of the school’s Business and Finance Academy. The program was aimed at increasing their financial literacy and teaching them the value of a dollar.

Students were assigned their careers of choice, mock salaries, credit scores and $20,000 in college debt. Then they were off to buy and rent what they thought they’d need — food, shelter, cars and more — at various stations around the school’s media center, manned by credit union employees and volunteers.

“Fun, maybe. But it’s an important financial lesson for parents and educators to teach at this age and even younger,” said First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan.

Watch the video below to get a glimpse of what was experienced at the Reality Fair!

Thank you to all our staff and volunteers who help made this day successful, we couldn’t have done it without you! To read more about Wall High School’s Reality Fair, click here.

5 Splurges You Can & Should Allow Yourself

iStock_000017972218XSmallYou work really hard to save money and get out of debt. Every year, when making your New Year’s Resolutions, you vow that this will be the year you finally succeed and never look back.

You set your budget before December loses itself to January; you’ve planned how much you will put on each card, and you plan to say “no” to everything.

At first, you’re so proud of yourself for doing well, but by January 27th, you’re starting to regret and resent your plans.

Your coworkers are going out to dinner tonight and you really, really want to go. You wrestle with your conscience and your goals and off you go to eat with the gang.

You’re not thinking about the goals you established only a few weeks back; you’re thinking about how your debts aren’t going anywhere, no matter what you do. If you can’t change your future, then why not enjoy your present?

Your plans fly out the window before you’ve even given them a fair chance to work.

The unrelenting pressure of your iron-fisted budget is coming down on you hard, and you can’t stand the thought of never spending another dime on yourself. Your inner rebel is screaming to get out. So you surrender, and let the rebel win. This year can be different. No, really, it can be.

Let Go

Allowing yourself a few guilty pleasures that won’t break your budget or wreck your route to success will give you a budget that’s livable and easier to swallow. No one wants to live life feeling deprived.

1. A gym membership

Yes, there goes your excuse to not join the gym. Sorry! The fact is, the gym is a great place to be inspired to stay fit. With the low cost of many fitness centers, it’s easy to justify $19 a month to better your health. Though the biggest win is the excellent health habits you’ll develop, the relaxation that comes after a great workout is a massive bonus. This is one expenditure you should allow yourself — and feel good about!

2. A healthy diet

Buying whole fruits, veggies, and meats eliminates many middle men from the food preparation process. This means you’re getting nutrient-rich foods that will fill and fuel your body better than frozen, prepackaged, or processed foods. They may cost a little more, but YOU are well worth the investment.

3. A retirement fund

Allocate an amount that can be set aside each pay period for your retirement. Even if you already contribute to a 401K, you can increase the amount. The more you invest now, the closer you are to sitting on the front porch of life, rocking away and watching the sun set.

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 and retirement goals, contact Financial Advisor Louis Paolillo at or call 732.312.1565.

4. A weekend away

(Only do this if you can pay for it outright — no credit cards for this one!) Once in a while, you deserve a break. And though it may cost a bit more, a weekend away can really recharge your batteries, giving you a reason to continue on your journey of savings. Make sure to fully relax in your environment, so that when you return, you’re ready to work hard and roar towards your financial goals.

5. A special reward

Maybe you’ve had your eye on a gorgeous new suit, but you have a hard time justifying the purchase with your looming debt. You longingly stare every time you pass it by. Tuck away a little each week, so that you can get those dapper duds without breaking your budget. After all, you’ve been good and stuck to your goals, right?

By giving yourself permission to enjoy your money (within reason), you’ll be far more likely to stick with your budget and reach your goals.

What splurges do you allow yourself? Tell us! We’d love to hear it – comment below…

Click here to view the article source.

*First Financial is not responsible for any content listed on external websites. **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. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.