Saving May be Tough but Here’s How to Get a Handle on It

saveGetting on top of your finances can be a tough task. On paper the idea sounds simple, but in real life, it’s easier said than done.

By the time you pay down your consumer debt, put a dent in student loans, pay off your mortgage, and put extra money away for your children’s college fund and not to mention your own retirement, the list of demands for your savings is long! Online tools and advice from financial advisors suggest we can make it work but we need to rethink our approach and strategy. Here are some ideas to help you manage your savings goals:

Get real. If retirement sounds far away and “a rainy day fund” sounds kind of depressing, it’s time to rename these goals. For short-term savings objectives, identify what you want to buy and decide whether it’s important for you to finally take that dream vacation you’ve always wanted, or send your kids to college. The same extends to retirement. What does retirement look like to you: a vacation house, writing a book, or doing volunteer work? Visualize it then put a picture on your fridge so you can actually see it. It’s recommended that you should identify how much money you want to have put away at various ages in your life. Sixty-five may be hard to visualize, but goals targeted to ages 30, 40, and 50 will shorten your timeframes, making them more measurable and do-able.

Get started. The decision to save is based on a cumulative series of well thought out choices. You tell yourself you’ll save tomorrow and tomorrow never comes. If you don’t save one month it’s not terrible, but a series of those choices over your lifetime has consequences. Starting early really pays off and online tools and calculators will make the concept more real and easy for you.

Make savings planning a family affair. Providing an inheritance to your children is also about passing down values. The money tips we teach our children can be beneficial or crippling, even when we say we want our children to be financially educated to manage their finances in the future. Don’t be afraid of having money conversations as a family and talk to your kids about savings goals, spending and savings trade-offs, and even higher-level concepts such as inflation and investing, keeps everyone budget conscious.

Put your savings on autopilot. Did you know that you’re losing out on a lot of money when you don’t contribute the maximum allowable amount to your retirement plan? By committing to increase your 401(k) contribution by a percentage equal to your yearly raise will help you grow your pre-tax dollars before the money even gets distributed. Putting a stop to your daily temptations is also important – avoid going to the mall, only carry a small amount of cash in your wallet or simply leave your credit cards at home to cut back on your spending habits.

Hold your feet to the fire. When you’re spending money, ask yourself if this is a need or a want? Making this a habit enables you to keep track of your purchases and helps analyze your spending. It’s a good idea to make your own consequences when you fail to abide by your commitments – so bet on yourself. For example, if eating out has put a huge dent in your wallet, say out loud that you’ll limit yourself to two dinners out a week for the next month and then stick to your plan!

Go social. Sharing money-saving ideas or picking up tips from free sites like Mint.com and Moneyning can help make the topic of finance more enjoyable. Maybe you may want to consider starting a friendly money-saving competition — it holds you responsible, will help you stick to your saving goals and helps take your mind off your struggles.

Here at First Financial, we encourage our members to come in at least once a year for an annual financial check-up – to sit down with a representative at any one of our branches to make sure you are currently placed in the correct Rewards First tier for you, and also that you are receiving the best value, products and services based on your financial situation. Give us a call at 866.750.0100 or stop in to see us today!

Click here to view the original article source by Barbara Minnino of Fox Business.

Jackson Memorial Students Get Taste of Financial Reality

Tri-Town News article by Andrew Martins:

DSCN0228Financial independence can be a scary thing for young adults who are beginning to make their own way in life after graduating from high school or college. Unexpected costs arise, debt can become bloated, and temptations to spend frivolously crop up every day.

For a group of freshmen at Jackson Memorial High School, the sobering reality of money and adulthood was put on display during an event dubbed the Financial Reality Fair.

“The goal of the fair is to teach the kids the value of money and how to manage their money when they leave high school,” said Issa Stephan, First Financial Federal Credit Union president and CEO. “It is very crucial these days to be financially savvy, and there is a lot of temptation out there.”

Financial responsibility is a subject that Stephan believes should have a bigger focus in public schools. He cited the economic downturn that began in 2008 as a prime example for why such responsibility is imperative for the future.

“I think that since 2008, people are more conscious about money,” he said.

On Jan. 8, students tackled financial issues in a hands-on manner without potentially destroying their credit rating.

“These days, it is easy to get in trouble,” Stephan said. “Twenty years ago, you had to drive to the mall and take your cash to spend it. Now you can be sitting in your bed, clicking yourself away into financial trouble” on a computer.

The idea for the fair, according to First Financial Marketing Manager Jessica Revoir, was based on similar events held throughout the state by the New Jersey Credit Union League Foundation, which sponsored the Jackson Memorial High School event.

DSCN0230Students were initially instructed to choose a career. After each student selected a job, that career’s starting salary after taxes was used as the baseline for a monthly budget. The young adults were informed that some expenses were required, including food, clothes and rent; and some expenses were not required, including gym memberships and vacations.

Stephan said the point was to illustrate the importance of determining what is needed and what is not needed.

“If you move out [of your parents’ home], you have to pay rent and insurance, but people usually get in trouble with what I call ‘variable expenses,’ ” he said. “A lot of people see a smartphone as a fixed cost … but it is not. There are ways to make even a necessity much more affordable in the long run. If you shield the students from reality, they fall.”

Stephan said students were led astray on purpose as a means of letting them see the difference between what they want and what they need.

At the transportation booth, for example, a binder was purposely left open at a page featuring luxury cars and sports cars for purchase, rather than being left open at a page with less expensive vehicles or public transportation.

“We are trying to teach these kids that if they let themselves be manipulated financially when they get older, they can get into some serious trouble,” First Financial Investment and Retirement Center Coordinator Samantha Schertz said.

To Lisa Scott, who teaches honors economics and financial literacy, the fair provided an opportunity for her students to take a more tactile approach to learning the importance of finances.

“This really is experiential learning for our kids because, to them, the class is just the textbook and something they need to graduate, but then they come here and realize they need this to live and get through adulthood,” Scott said.

The fair was a sobering realization that made freshman Claudia Besse take a moment to consider her future.

“I learned that I am very grateful for my parents, for one,” Claudia said. “I never realized that your gross pay is not your takehome pay and that there are so many expenses. Cars are so expensive.”

Scott said those realizations are fueled not only because of the way that financial education is traditionally handled in school, but also because some parents provide everything for their children.

DSCN0223“What I am hearing as the kids go through the fair is they ask, ‘Does that cost that?’ A lot of kids don’t have to pay for the things they enjoy right now … so for some kids, this is a revelation,” Scott said.

Stephan said he and his staff hope the students will take what they learned at the event and apply it to their lives.

“I saw some kids calculating and trying to make smart decisions, and I saw others just not caring as much. And that, in a way, reflects society,” he said. “We need to try to catch people before they get into financial trouble.”

Click here to view the original article from Tri-Town News.

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

Jackson Memorial High School Students Get Schooled in Money Management

Asbury Park Press Article by Amanda Ogelsby:

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How do you teach teens how much it really costs to live?

JACKSON, NJ — Fourteen-year-old Aylin Torenli of Jackson spent a recent Wednesday morning calculating whether the salary of a dental hygienist would be enough to afford her the finer things of life: a smart phone, upscale furniture, television.

“I didn’t realize how expensive it was,” Torenli said of life’s luxuries that quickly add up. The freshman joined more than 200 Jackson Memorial High School students at a Financial Reality Fair Wednesday that was designed to give teenagers the foundations for a lifetime of successful money management.

After picking a “career” and its related income, students visited various stations where they chose cellphone plans and car payments, looked at housing costs, and calculated quality-of-life expenses like dining out and spa treatments.

“You understand how hard it is to be in the financial world,” Torenli said after meeting with a financial adviser to review her budget. “I give a lot of credit to my parents now.”

Under New Jersey law, public school students must learn about money management, insurance, saving and investing, as well as credit and debt management, beginning by fourth grade.

Public high school students are required by state law to take 2.5 credits of financial literacy and economics to graduate, according to the state Department of Education. That law went into effect in the 2010-11 school year, beginning with then ninth-graders.

The 2008 recession — when financial markets around the world fell following a collapse of the U.S. housing market — triggered the need for such educational programs, said Issa E. Stephan, president of First Financial in Wall, which helped to organize the event along with the New Jersey Credit League Foundation.

“Our mission for the fair is to help the students understand the value of money and how to manage their money, so as they grow as an adult, they’ll be more financially responsible,” Stephan said.

In a country loaded with easy temptations to spend, financial literacy is crucial, he said.

At the spinning “Reality Wheel,” students took a risk at budget breakers like car repairs and accidents.

“We just want to give them a little wake-up call,” said Janice Anderson of First Financial, who talked to students about managing monthly food budgets.

Freshman Tom Del Monte, 15, said the Financial Fair helped him better understand the importance of securing a good job after high school. The Jackson freshman said he was shocked by the high prices of cellphones and food.

“I finally understand the reality of what we’re learning in class,” he said. “I didn’t realize what my parents pay.”

“We hope this (fair) leads to better consumers,” said Lisa Scott, a business, finance and economics teacher at Jackson Memorial High School.

She added: “They’re coming face-to-face with the reality of whether or not that (job) will buy them all the things that they think they’re going to have when they are young adults out on their own for the first time. It is a rude awakening for some of them.”

Click here to view the original article/video source from APP.com.

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