8 Foolproof Ways to Grow Your Savings

Money plant over white backgroundA typical emergency fund should contain at least six months’ worth of net income (up to a year is recommended if you have kids or other dependents), and you should only touch it in a true emergency (no, under no circumstances is your dream vacation to Tahiti a true emergency).

Here are five examples of situations that qualify as actual financial emergencies:

  • Emergency 1: You’ve lost your job and need to continue paying rent, bills, and other living expenses.
  • Emergency 2: You have a medical or dental emergency.
  • Emergency 3: Your car breaks down and it is your primary form of transportation.
  • Emergency 4: You have emergency home expenses. For example, your air conditioning unit breaks down in 100-degree weather, your roof is leaking, your basement is flooded (no again, a kitchen in need of redecorating doesn’t count, no matter how much you hate that wallpaper or your “outdated” cabinets).
  • Emergency 5: You have bereavement-related expenses, like travel costs for a family funeral.

Here’s another reason why you should always have money in an emergency fund: If you don’t, and one of these five situations occurs, you’ll most likely be stuck using a credit card to handle it, leading you into (or deeper into) credit card debt. In fact, medical expenses are the leading contributor to credit card debt, with low-to moderate-income households averaging $1,678 in credit card debt due to out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Plus, paying for emergency expenses on your credit card (if you don’t pay off your bill immediately) will end up costing you more over time, when you rack up interest payments as you try to dig yourself out of debt. Having an emergency fund will not only save you more money in the long run, but it will also give you peace of mind in knowing you have the safety net to catch those unexpected curveballs when they arrive.

If getting six months of take-home pay together seems daunting, here are eight useful tips that might better help you boost your emergency savings:

1. Direct Deposit into Your Savings

Think of yourself as a regular monthly bill you have to pay. All you have to do is arrange to have a set amount of money directly deposited from your paycheck into a savings account each month. The savings account is recommended because if you use your checking account, you may be tempted to spend the money you are trying to set aside. It might hurt a bit at first to take home a little less every month, but after awhile you won’t even notice it’s gone. Here’s a moment when the “set it and forget it” strategy works wonders!

2. Never Spend a Bonus Again

It feels great to be rewarded for your hard work. And it feels even better to spend that hard-earned bonus on something you’ll enjoy, like a trip to the Caribbean or a new tablet. At the same time, the pleasure of a vacation or new gadget is short-lived compared to financial security.

So make a pact with yourself to put every bonus you get from here on out to good use. If you direct 90 percent of your bonuses straight into your savings account as a rule, you’ll still have 10 percent to treat yourself with (plus the comfort of knowing that you’re building a well-earned safety net).

3. Cut Unnecessary Costs

This seems like an obvious one — and is easier said than done. Actually, most people spend money on more unnecessary items than they think. So take time to look at where your money is going in detail and begin to cut back. Saving $10 here and $5 there could help you put a lot away in the long run – you’d really be surprised.

4. Open a Seasonal Savings Account

Many financial institutions offer seasonal accounts meant to save for the holidays. These accounts give you reduced access to your accounts, charging a penalty each time you withdraw more than permitted. Since emergencies (hopefully) don’t occur often, a seasonal account could make sure you’re touching it only when needed.

Check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!*

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

5. Sell Unused Items

Rather than throwing these unused goods away, start selling them, and put that money into your emergency fund. All you need to do is post them to a site like eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon and you can get rid of items from the comfort of your home. You can also take your clothes to a consignment shop to have them sold for you.

6. Stop Spending $5 Bills

Instead of saving your pennies, put aside any $5 bills that come your way. Never spend a $5 bill again, and you’ll be surprised by how quickly this little trick will help you come up with a few hundred dollars to add to an emergency fund.

7. Earn Extra Income

You could pick up odd jobs to help do things for other people, freelance writing/blogging, or babysitting via websites like TaskRabbit.com, DoMyStuff.com, Elance.com, FreelanceSwitch.com, or Sitters.com. Or if you have the time – go out and find an additional part-time job as a cashier, server, or utilize your hidden talents in web design, catering, and so on.

8. Use Cash Back Rewards

If you get a cash-back reward for any spending on your credit card, just make it a rule that those dollars will be dedicated to your emergency fund. It may only add up to $100 extra each year, depending on your spending, but every little bit counts!

Article Source: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/12/18/eight-foolproof-ways-grow-your-savings/

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

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What’s Your Number? 5 Financial Figures You Need to Know

When we talk about personal finance, a lot of terms often get tossed around: APRs, credit scores, mortgage principles … you get the idea. It’s easy to get lost in all of these numbers, so we’re here to break it down for you. These five may be the most important – they’re the difference between a healthy bank account and debt collectors knocking at your door. Expenses.

1. Your credit score. This may be the most important number ever attached to your name. Your credit score decides your approval for a mortgage or auto loan; it also plays a role in what credit card offers you qualify for. It influences your rates on loans too, and much more. Moreover, many employers evaluate an applicant’s score during the hiring process.

To build a high score, you have to be a responsible borrower. That job is a little more complex than it might sound, so we’ll start at the beginning: Pay your credit card bills on time and in full.

Once you’ve got that down, another way to boost your credit score is to take out different types of loans to show you’re creditworthy.

That said, don’t take out all those loans at the same time, as each results in a hard inquiry, which takes a slight hit on your credit score. Your length of credit history has an impact on your score, and too many accounts opened at the same time may not look too good.

Does your credit score need some work?  Have no fear, check out First Financial’s low cost First Score program.  First Score is an interactive session with a financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various scenarios.  We’ll show you how to get your credit score back on track!

2. Your tax rate. When you file your taxes, you’ll find yourself in one of six brackets, from 10 to 35 percent. Don’t assume, though, that if you fall into the 15 percent bracket, you pay a flat 15 percent to the federal government every year — you’ll pay less.

That’s because the 15 percent bracket isn’t your effective rate (the final amount you end up paying); it’s your marginal tax rate, which says how much your last dollar is taxed.

Confused? Think of taxes as a stepladder: for single people, the 10 percent bracket ends at $8,700. The next rung on the ladder is the 15 percent bracket, from $8,701 to $35,350.

If you made $30,000 last year, the first $8,700 you made is taxed 10 percent; and the rest, that other $21,300 you earned, is taxed 15 percent. In sum, you end up paying $4,065, which means, again, your effective rate isn’t 15 percent but rather 13.55 percent, assuming you don’t claim any tax deductions, credits, or the like.

Here’s why this is important: If your employer withholds significantly more than you owe to the federal government, you might ask them to withhold a little less. That way, rather than get the extra cash back as a federal tax return in springtime, you can deposit the money into a savings account or save it for retirement by depositing it into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which are both Federally Insured by the NCUA.

3. Your personal savings rate. In America, saving a large portion of your earnings may be a thing of the past. The personal saving rate — how much of your disposable income is socked away rather than spent — is at just 4.6 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2012.

While this is much improved from a shocking low of 1.5 percent in 2005, it still represents a major decline from decades past, when Americans overall saved more than 10 percent of their income. What’s worse, in 2010, according to the Federal Reserve, just 52 percent of Americans spent less than they earned.

If you’re looking to save, check out your local credit union like First Financial! We offer a great variety of options in savings accounts and savings certificates, which are Federally Insured by the NCUA.

4. Your student loan debt. Americans hold more debt in student loans than in credit cards, to the tune of $1 trillion. Although rates on most federal and private loans are less than those for credit cards, the sheer amount of debt — sometimes as much as $100,000 or more — can make it difficult to afford even the minimum payments. Be sure to know your future obligations when taking out student loans, and take advantage of any beneficial repayment programs offered by your lenders.

You need to get a handle on your student debt, as it will affect the loans you take out in the future. The way you treat your student debt, and really any debt, has a bearing on your credit score, which in turn has a bearing on your future rates — or if you’ll be approved for a loan at all.

If you have student loan debt and need to consolidate your student loans, be sure to check out our Student Loan Consolidation program.  You can apply right online, quickly and easily!*

business finance5. Your net worth. It sounds daunting to try to put a dollar value to your name, but knowing this value will help you set smarter goals and create a sound financial plan. To calculate your net worth, you need to make a list of everything you own, everything you owe, and then subtract to find out the difference.

First, add up your assets, then your liabilities (or your total debts). Your rough net assets equation should be as follows:

Net worth = (cash + properties + investments) – (credit card debt + loans + outstanding payments of any other kind).

If you’re in the positive, ask yourself: “Am I allocating my resources as best I can to my short, medium, and long-term goals?” If all of your money is sitting in a low-yield savings account, consider investing a portion of it to diversify your portfolio. The Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial, can help you do just that.**

If you’re in the negative, don’t stress – but rather develop a plan. The most important step you can take is to begin paying off your debt as soon as possible, starting with the loans that have the highest rates.

Once you know where you stand overall, you can budget better for future expenses, such as preparing to buy a car or saving for retirement.

*The cuGrad Private Student Loan Consolidation is available to borrowers who are carrying private student loan debt. Federal student loans cannot be consolidated with the cuGrad Private Student Loan Consolidation. If you are seeking a federal student loan consolidation, you can learn more details about the process here: http://www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov/

**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.

Article Source: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2013/03/18/whats-your-number-5-financial-figures-you-need-to-know

Save for Summer with a Summer Savings Account

penny%20blog%20summer-resized-600First Financial’s Summer Savings Account is ideal for employees who get paid 10 months out of the year. Members – especially teachers – particularly enjoy this Summer Savings Account because it allows them to have money available for summer expenses during July and August.

Not only does the Summer Savings Account offer competitive dividend earnings, our Members have the flexibility to choose the amount of money they would like to have deposited into their Summer Savings Account each pay period through direct deposit or payroll deduction.

The Member can elect to have their money transferred into a First Financial Checking Account in two different ways: Either 100% of funds can be transferred on July 1st, or 50% will be transferred July 1st, and the other 50% August 1st.  Funds will be easily accessible through an ATM, point-of-sale transaction with instant access debit card, online banking, or by writing a check.

This account can be opened anytime and does not require a minimum balance, just a $5 deposit in a base savings account to maintain credit union membership.*

Getting started with a Summer Savings account is simple – you can applyonline, in a branch, or by phone at 866.750.0100.

It’s never too late to start saving for summer! Get started today with a Summer Savings Account to make your summer more relaxing.

 *A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 
and under are excluded from this program. 
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