Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this November 2014

Family at the dinner table at the Thanksgiving day.It’s officially the start of the holiday season and there are plenty of things to do with family and friends in the upcoming weeks to celebrate this special time of year! Just because it’s getting cold, it doesn’t mean there aren’t outdoor activities to enjoy. Check out our list of free or inexpensive activities happening this month in a town near you.

Saturday, November 1 – Sunday, November 2: Gather your gals and treat yourselves to the best local shopping, fashion, travel, entertainment, food, and much more at the New Jersey Women’s Expo at Brookdale Community College (Lincroft)! This weekend-long showcase will feature the best products, services, and attractions created especially for women from 11am-5pm. $7 for adults and children 7 and under are FREE! For more information, click on the link above.

Friday, November 7 – Sunday, November 16: Plan a date night (or two), it’s time for Jersey Shore Restaurant Week! Enjoy a 3-course meal with your choice of an appetizer, entree, and dessert for either $20.14 or $30.14. Click here to see a list of participating restaurants and their menus. For more information, contact Jennifer Flynn at jennifer@jerseyshoreresaurantweek.com.

Saturday, November 15: Go green! It’s Paper Shredding Day for Monmouth County residents at Brielle Borough Hall (601 Union Lane) from 9am-1pm to get rid of old documents and confidential files safely. For more information call 732-683-8686, ext. 6721.

Saturday, November 22: The Manasquan Annual Turkey Run is here just in time for Thanksgiving. Runners can choose to run 1 mile or 5 miles for just $30 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under (special price if purchased before 11/9). For wave times and additional information, call 732-223-8303.

Friday, November 28: It’s time for Red Bank’s 20th Annual Holiday Concert & Tree Lighting Ceremony to kick off the the holiday season! Bring the whole family to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays starting at 7pm. The Santa Express Train will go from Little Silver to Red Bank, followed by a parade from Red Bank Train Station down Monmouth Street, to end at the Holiday Express concert on Broad Street for the annual town lighting! For more information, call 732-842-4244.

Saturday, November 29th: Help rebuild the shore at Belmar’s 3rd Annual Freeze Out! This town-wide music festival will feature the best in local entertainment. The event will be held from 4pm-8pm with other activities following afterwards. This year for a $20 donation, you will receive two drink tickets and a food ticket (buffet will be held from 6pm-8pm) from participating bar/restaurants: Bar Anticipation, Boathouse Bar & Grill, Connolly Station, Jack’s Tavern, 507 Main @ Shark River, and Klein’s Fish Market & Waterside Cafe. For more information call, 732-681-3700 ext. 214. 

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy the start of the holiday season!

Down to Business: Merchant Services

Merchant-Services-Product-Page-Photo

A professional on his lunch break walks down to a local eatery and enjoys a turkey club with avocado lime spread and a crisp dill pickle spear on the side. For twenty minutes out of his busy day he is calm, and he can already feel the tired 2 o’clock feeling coming on. He reaches for his credit card, swipes and in an instant his tab is settled. Let’s focus on that instant… blip… that instant when funds are transferred from consumer to merchant.

To break it down; the customer swipes his card through the terminal to pay $10.00 for his lunch. The terminal reads who the customer is and contacts the bank that issued the card. The bank at this point, must make a decision on whether or not to pay the merchant. Could the transaction be fraudulent? Are there funds available? Upon approval, the consumer’s bank sends $10.00 to the merchant’s bank, and then the bank deposits $9.80 into the merchant’s account. That $0.20 is sent back to the consumer’s bank and it is then split five times: with the issuing credit or debit card company at a predetermined rate, the issuing credit card brand (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, etc.), the processing company, then to an ISO selling the processing (if applicable), and finally, it is split for the last time if there is an independent contractor selling the processing for the ISO. We’re certainly not splitting the atom, but this is getting eerily close to nuclear fission.

At the end of each business day, all of the credits and fees are tallied by the processing company. After about 2 business days, the settlement is deposited into the merchant’s bank account. The processing fees are typically debited from the merchant’s account 3-5 days after the end of the month. Phew – that is quite the process! Why would a processing company go through all of this effort for pennies on the dollar… or sometimes fractions of a penny? Why would a business pay to have customers pay them?

Market trends and statistics provide an overwhelming answer to these questions.   According to Javelin Research, in 2011 only 27% of all in person sales were made with cash. According to the SEC in 2011 – $17,782,000,000,000.00 were spent using Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Diners Club. When you start to take small percentages of nearly 18 trillion dollars, it becomes clear just how lucrative this business can be. For the business owner, according to Ari Shapiro of NPR, consumers purchase 40% more when they shop with a credit card vs. cash. Many interesting clinical psychological studies break down the why behind this.

So what does all of this mean for our small businesses? Well, with so many entities fighting for a slice of the dollar, the competition among merchant services providers is stiff. Given the dynamic nature of the industry, loyalty, transparency and honest hardworking member service are hard to find. Perform your due diligence and interview various clients to see just what kind of service is actually provided. A few minutes now will pay dividends later!

If you’re interesting in merchant services for your business, you’re in luck! First Financial has a new processor who provides great service and excellent rates. If you would like more information on merchant services or business products and services, contact Business Development Manager, Matthew Brazinski, at 732.312.1421 or simply leave a comment below! 

*Sources: Psychology Today, Nerd Wallet, Huffington Post, and Host Merchant Services.

8 Ways to Protect Your Identity While Shopping Online

Concept of mobile shoppingAs we move into the most frenzied shopping season of the year, scam artists will be on the prowl for vulnerable shoppers. To avoid becoming a victim, consider taking steps now to keep your financial accounts and personal information safe.

1. Skip attachments and hyperlinks. Even attachments from people you know can be nefarious, since those acquaintances could be infected with a computer virus. If the email contains unusual or scant wording, don’t open the attachment. The same logic applies to hyperlinks in emails (or requests for information received over text message). First hover over the link to make sure it’s going to direct you to a valid address.

2. Don’t make purchases over coffee shop lattes. Any public Wi-Fi connection, such as those offered at coffee shops or libraries, carry extra risks, since they aren’t private. Try to avoid shopping online or engaging in any financial transactions, like logging into your bank account, from such hot spots.

3. Protect your smartphone. Web browsers and retailer apps on mobile devices make it easy to shop on the go, but doing so can also expose shoppers to extra risks since many phones don’t have the same kind of data encryption that’s often installed on computers. Even taking a relatively simple step, like enabling the password lock feature on your phone, will make it harder for a thief to access private data stored on the phone in case it’s lost or stolen. The computer security company McAfee also warns against downloading apps that might steal personal information.

4. Don’t trust your “friends.” Hackers target social media, including Facebook and Twitter, because they know it’s easier to get people to click on a link that appears to be recommended from a friend. McAfee has identified dozens of examples, including free dinner offers at Cheesecake Factory and fake mystery shopper invitations. Offers that sound too good to be true, such as free iPads or free iPhones, are also a common lure. The company cautions against clicking on fake alerts from friends, who may have been hacked themselves, and avoiding shortened links on Twitter that claim to offer deals.

5. Open e-cards with caution. They can be cute, but they can also be malicious. McAfee warns that some e-cards download viruses onto your computer when you download them. To avoid that outcome, the company suggests only opening e-cards from domain names that you recognize.

6. Upgrade your passwords. The holiday season can serve as a good reminder to give your passwords a makeover; security experts recommend changing them regularly as a precaution against hackers. Avoid common and simple words, use long combinations of words that also incorporate numbers or symbols, and never use duplicate passwords for multiple accounts. Sites that offer two-step authentication, such as Twitter and Gmail, can also add another layer of protection.

7. Check up on an e-retailer before making purchases. Some fly-by-night operations take advantage of the uptick in shopping around the holiday season to collect cash without ever mailing out the goods in return, warns the Better Business Bureau. The same applies to in-person exchanges on Craigslist or other online sites. To protect yourself, the bureau recommends never wiring money or paying in advance, and bringing a friend to any in-person exchanges.

8. Review your statements. The first sign of identity theft is often an unfamiliar charge on a credit card or bank statement; reviewing those statements carefully and contacting your financial institution or card provider with any concerns can prevent a theft from expanding. Credit cards usually come with some measure of automatic protection, as long as you report the scam relatively quickly.

Following these tips might leave you feeling overly cynical about the world, but the real downer would be dealing with a stolen identity just as the holiday season is heating up.

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!**

Article Source: Kimberly Palmer for US News – Money, Http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/09/16/8-ways-to-protect-your-identity-while-online-shopping

*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.

Learn How to “Get Your Business Off the Right Way” at this FREE Seminar in November 2014

pplDo you have a new business or looking to start one and want to learn some best practices to get your company off the ground? Attend this upcoming free seminar on 11/5 presented by SCORE counselor, Joe Wasilewski and learn how to get your business plan together, tax and accounting advice, and so much more!

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • Business Formation Process in NJ; LLC vs Partnership vs Corporation
  • Accounting and Tax Issues for the Start Up Business
  • Business Plan Preparation and Steps

Join us on Wednesday, November 5th at 6pm for our free “Get Your Business Off the Right Way” Seminar presented by CPA, Joe Wasilewski, of the SCORE Association. 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 below.

Register Now!

The SCORE Association is a national nonprofit organization with a public service mission to maximize the success of America’s existing and emerging small businesses. SCORE’s 10,500 members provide client counseling and training through a network of 389 chapters, 800 branches, and a national as well as individual chapter Web sites. SCORE has been a resource partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA) since 1964. Their volunteer members, who are both retired, or actively engaged in their business or profession, have many years of experience to bring to bear on helping to create stronger more profitable businesses.

First Financial Hosts First NJ Retirement Fair for Staff at Asbury Park High School in Fall 2014

PRESS RELEASE

APHS

(photo of Asbury park high school)

Wall, N.J. – Going back to the building where it was founded, First Financial Federal Credit Union brought an informative and interactive new Retirement Fair program to the staff of Asbury Park High School last month, which also happened to be the first ever Retirement Fair held in New Jersey. Throughout the day, teachers visited the library during their professional development period to learn whether they could afford the same lifestyle they are currently living once they retire, based on retirement scenarios.

The Retirement Fair was a hands-on experience where educators were provided a worksheet and then visited individual lifestyle stations such as health and fitness, food and clothing, travel and entertainment – and were given a calculation based upon a series of short questions. Once the teachers visited each station, they added their calculations and compared them to the national average to see if their current retirement savings plan was in the right place or if it needed to be adjusted.

First Financial’s Business Development Manager, Matthew Brazinski, and Investment & Retirement Center Coordinator, Samantha Schertz, gave a brief history of the credit union, explaining how it was founded right there, in the halls of Asbury Park High School in 1936. In the debriefing after the station visits, Mary LaFerriere, Financial Advisor with CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., reviewed the experience with the group, pointing out the various components of retirement to keep in mind, including inflation, debt, expenditures, investments, and more. The participants were then able to schedule an appointment with the credit union’s Investment & Retirement Center if they wished to delve deeper into retirement planning or had questions about their results.

”Retirement planning is one of the top priorities for our members here at First Financial, and we were honored to be the first in the state to host this Retirement Fair event at Asbury Park High School – the very location in which we began nearly 80 years ago,” said Issa Stephan, President/CEO at First Financial. “We hope the educators who attended realize the importance of planning and saving for retirement, and if they need help or advice – they have somewhere local to go, to help them achieve their dream goals and lifestyle.”

The National Credit Union Foundation’s REAL Solutions Program in cooperation with CUNA Mutual Group have developed this new Retirement Fair program to assist credit unions in helping their members better prepare for retirement. The fair is an interactive learning experience, similar to the popular Financial Reality Fair program offered through the New Jersey Credit Union League Foundation.

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.