Video: 2014 Annual Report

At First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams every time you do your banking with us. Together we will define your dream goals and lifestyle, empower you through financial education, build your wealth, plan your retirement, and manage your risk.

Check out our successes and accomplishments from 2014 in the Annual Report Video below.  Thank you for being a valued First Financial member!

When’s the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Happy woman buying a carIt’s a good time to be in the market for a new car – especially if you plan to finance the purchase, as nine out of 10 Americans do. Buyers with good credit can take advantage of some very low interest rates.

Rates for new and used car loans are at “their lowest point in the past few years,” according to a new survey of 157 lenders by the website WalletHub. The average interest rate for new-car loans is currently 4.29 percent and 4.96 percent for used cars.

WalletHub found that car loans at credit unions are 25 percent below average, national banks are roughly average, and regional banks are 40 percent above average.

Jack Gillis, author of The Car Book 2015, cautions buyers that the financing arranged through a dealer may be higher than what’s offered from the manufacturer.

“Often the low interest rates advertised by dealers require extraordinarily high credit ratings and sometimes are accompanied by extra fees,” Gillis told NBC News. “Before you talk financing with the dealer, check with your credit union and banks to see what they offer. It’s the only way to know if the dealers’ financing is a good deal.”

Good credit is a real money saver

WalletHub reports that it will cost you about four-and-a-half times more to finance a car if you have fair credit rather than excellent credit. That translates into additional interest costs of about $5,500 for a five-year, $20,000 loan.

Someone with excellent credit can also get extremely low rates for used car loans now. The average rate for these loans dropped nearly 18 percent from last year, WalletHub reports.

“So a few months before you go shopping for a car, check your credit report,” WalletHub’s Jill Gonzales said. ”Make sure everything is in order and there are no errors that could affect your credit score and drive up that interest rate.”

Car loans are also getting longer

As car prices have gone up, car loans have gotten longer. The average car loan in the U.S. is now 67.2 months – a record high and the average price paid for a new vehicle last year was $32,386, reports Edmunds.com.

“A longer loan will lower the monthly payment, but you will be ‘upside down’ in that loan longer,” noted Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at Credit.com. “So if you need to sell the car or something happens to it – maybe it’s totaled in an accident – you could owe more than it’s worth.”

A longer loan also drives up the cost of financing that vehicle because you’re borrowing the money longer. The experts at Consumer Reports Autos point out that extended loans also tend to have higher interest rates. Their advice: limit your loan to about 48 months.

First Financial has great low Auto Loan rates – and they’re the same whether you plan to purchase a new or used vehicle!  You can view our current rates by clicking here, and if you like what you see – you can apply right online 24/7.  If you need a handy tool to help you figure out those monthly auto loan payments to see what you can afford before you buy, try our free loan calculator application called AutoCalcubot. We also provide a free auto buying and research tool, AutoSMART – a great place to find new and used vehicles!

Article Source: Herb Weisbaum – NBC Contributor, http://www.today.com/money/whens-best-time-buy-car-right-now-survey-shows-2D80507620

 

 

 

5 Ways You Could Be Sabotaging Your Future Net Worth

The 3d person under a bill's rain. crise hopelessnessYou may not realize it, but the actions you take now can greatly impact your sense of financial security down the road. Many Americans inadvertently minimize their future net worth by focusing only on the short-term. It can be great to live in the moment, but in some situations it’s a good idea to take a step back to evaluate the long-term impact of your financial decisions.

Here are five ways many Americans are shooting their future net worth in the foot:

1. Renting a Home Instead of Buying

Purchasing a home is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make, but if you choose a property wisely, it’s definitely worth it. Sure, you’ll need to come up with an initial down payment and you’re responsible for all upkeep and repairs, but in most cases these costs pay themselves back.

When you own the property, you build equity in an investment that will likely increase in value over time. Rather than making monthly rent payments to someone else, your mortgage payments are essentially an investment in your future. Homeowners enjoy the stability of knowing their monthly housing expenses are for the long term, whereas renters never know when their monthly rent will increase. Additionally, interest and property tax paid by homeowners is tax deductible, often offering the chance for an annual break from Uncle Sam.

Need a mortgage or you’d like to re-finance your current mortgage? First Financial has great, low rate mortgage options!  Check them out today. We also have a mortgage rate text messaging service, and when you text firstrate to 69302 – you’ll receive a text message whenever our mortgage rates change.*

2. Not Paying Into a Retirement Plan Early in Your Career

When you’re young, saddled with student loans and barely making enough money to pay the rent, it’s easy to put off saving for retirement because it’s still 40 years away. However, waiting until you’re older to start saving can have a significantly negative impact your financial stability in your golden years.

The earlier you start saving, the more money you’ll earn in interest. For example, if you opened a 401(k) account in your mid-20s, saved a total of $30,000 and realized an 8 percent rate of return, you would have approximately $280,000 by age 65. However, if you save the same amount, realizing the same rate of return, but wait until your mid-40s to start the process, you’ll have only about $60,000 at age 65. Many companies also have a 401(k) match program, where they’ll match your contribution to a certain percentage or dollar amount, so you’re essentially turning away free money by not taking full advantage of this opportunity.

3. Waiting Until Withdrawal to Pay Taxes on Retirement Plan

Traditional 401(k) and IRA plans allow you to make tax-free contributions into your retirement account, with the deductions made in retirement when you withdraw funds. However, it might be smarter to open a Roth 401(k) or IRA, where taxes are deducted upfront, allowing you the benefit of making tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This could be a savvy move, as there’s a very good chance you’ll be in a higher income tax bracket when you retire than you were when you opened your retirement account.

4. Leasing Vehicles Instead of Financing

At first glance, leasing a vehicle can seem like an attractive option — less money down, lower monthly payments and the ability to drive a higher-priced car than you could afford to finance. However, leasing won’t add any gains to your future net worth. The monthly payments you make are essentially rent to the dealership, as you don’t get to keep the vehicle at the end of the lease. Rather than paying off the car and driving it for a few years payment-free, you’re forced to return it and immediately start making payments on another model — and continue the cycle every few years when your lease is up. Additionally, you’re limited to the number of miles you can put on a leased vehicle, you have to pay extra for excess wear-and-tear charges and you’ll pay sky-high early termination fees if you need to break the lease early.

In the market for a vehicle?  At First Financial, our auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used.** Apply online 24/7!

5. Using Credit Cards to Overspend

Everyone wants things they can’t afford, but offers for zero or low-interest credit cards can make it very difficult to avoid temptation. It might seem harmless to book a vacation or purchase a new furniture set using a credit card with little-to-no introductory financing, but what if you can’t pay the balance off before the promotional period ends? It’s not uncommon for these promotional interest rates to rise from zero to 18 or 20 percent, which can seriously increase the initial price of your expenditures and leave you with a mountain of debt that can take years to pay off.

Do you have a large balance on a high interest credit card? Have no fear, First Financial’s Visa Platinum Card has a great low rate, no balance transfer fees, no annual fee, and rewards!*** Apply online today.

Making savvy financial choices now can help ensure you’re able to enjoy stability later in life. Sometimes it’s worth making initial sacrifices now to allow yourself to ultimately come out ahead. Always consider what the impact of the choices you make now will have on your long-term happiness before jumping head first into a decision you’ll grow to regret.

 *Subject to credit approval.  Credit worthiness determines your APR. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. 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.  See Credit Union for details. Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

**A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval.

***APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Laura Woods of gobankingrates.com, http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/money/5-ways-you-re-sabotaging-your-future-net-worth

 

How To Save When You’re Young

Businesswoman saving moneyIt’s hard to save money when you’re young. If you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not overflowing with cash. With a ton of young and talented job seekers, companies also have little pressure to offer generous starting salaries.

Meanwhile, apartment rents have steadily risen for 23 straight quarters, and life’s other inevitable expenses — utilities, food, taxes, etc. And these haven’t gotten any cheaper.

Let’s not forget educational expenses too. Inflation in college tuition has massively outpaced broader consumer price inflation for decades, meaning most college graduates start their careers with large student loan debts hanging over their heads. A recent poll found that college graduates finish their studies with an average debt load of $35,200. And if you are the ambitious type who decided to go to graduate school, you might have multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

Still, the savings you manage to sock away while you’re young will have an outsized effect on the lifestyle you’re able to live when in middle age and your golden years.

Pay Yourself First.

Humans are hardwired to expand our spending to absorb any increases in income. In order to mitigate these impulses, you have to “pay yourself first” by allocating your first dollar of income to savings rather than your last. Figure out a dollar amount that you want to save, and set it aside before you budget your regular monthly expenses.

If your employer offers a 401k plan, this is easy enough to do. Your 401k contributions come out of your paycheck before you have a chance to spend them. Not including the value of employer matching, if your employer offers this – is an “out of sight, out of mind” way to save for your retirement one day.

Even contributing $500 per month to savings will get you to $6,000 per year, and many young workers can try to make do with $500 less per month.

Make it Automatic.

Very closely related to paying yourself first is making your savings as automated as possible. For example with a 401k plan, this accomplishes both. Once you set your contribution limits, your company’s payroll department will take care of the rest. It’s automated, and you don’t have to think about it.

But what if your company doesn’t offer a 401k plan? There are plenty of other ways to automate your savings process. Often times, your payroll department will allow you to split your paycheck among two or more accounts. This will allow you to automatically divert whatever sum you can afford away from your primary checking account and into a savings or investment account.

You can also generally instruct your brokerage account or savings account to automatically draw from your checking account on a specified day every month. The key here is automating the process so as to remove your discretion. If you have a real emergency, you can always suspend the automated instructions for the time being. Otherwise, you have made saving part of your monthly routine and made it a lot harder to throw the money away on something frivolous.

Slash Your Budget.

Let’s face it, it can be easier said than done when your monthly bills seem to get bigger every month. Here are a few concrete examples of how to save without crimping your lifestyle too badly.

First off, ditch cable TV. Most of the programming you watch is probably available for free over the airwaves or at a very modest cost with Hulu Plus or Netflix  after a short delay. And the handful of shows not available probably aren’t worth the $100 per month or more you’ll pay in cable bills. If you can’t live without HBO, chances are good that one of your friends or relatives has a subscription that you can borrow from time to time.

Also, try to put off a new car purchase as long as possible. If you take reasonably good care of your car, it will last you 150,000-200,000 miles. Not only will you save money on a car payment, but the older your car the less insurance coverage you will need. And when you finally do need to replace your wheels, buy a late-model used car rather than a new one.

Did you know at First Financial, our auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used? Be sure to check them out today, and if you like what you see – you can apply for an auto loan online 24/7.*

Consider cutting your rent and utilities bills in half by having a roommate. Chances are, you did it in college. Why not share an apartment for a few more years? The average apartment rent is more than $1,000 per month, and it is considerably more in the popular urban cities that attract younger people. Cutting that bill in half will make reaching your savings goals a lot easier.

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval.

Article Source: Charles Sizemore for investorplace.com, http://investorplace.com/2014/12/how-to-save-when-youre-young/#.VL65zNLF8uc

 

First Financial’s Freehold/Howell Service Center is Now Open!

Press Release

First Financial Federal Credit Union’s newest branch is now open for business at 389 Route 9 North (next to the Howell Park & Ride) in Freehold, NJ 07728.

New Branch and Drive Thru

Pictured above: First Financial’s new Freehold/Howell Service Center – now open!

The credit union’s newest branch will be a primary banking location for approximately a quarter of the credit union’s 20,000 members.  First Financial’s newest branch features many important banking conveniences such as a drive thru, drive up and walk up ATMs, and more.

In regard to the credit union’s latest branch location, Issa Stephan, First Financial’s President/CEO stated, “We look forward to bringing the Howell and Freehold community a high-tech banking facility featuring modern convenience. Member experience is extremely important to us, and our first priority is achieving our members’ financial dreams by defining their financial goals and lifestyle, empowering them with financial education, helping them to plan their retirement, and more – and our newest branch will be a key vehicle in helping us to fulfill this promise with our membership.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening week featuring outdoor activities is planned for warmer weather, and will take place starting Monday, April 27th. Stay tuned for future details!

Feb 2 Soft Opening Teller Line

Pictured above: The teller line inside the new Freehold/Howell Service Center.

5 Credit Assumptions You’ve Got All Wrong

Credit Inscription on Red Billboard.Let’s face it – when it comes to credit and credit scoring, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. As a result, many people make assumptions about their credit that are incorrect. Here are 5 common examples of false credit assumptions, and the truth behind each one.

1. Paying a late fee means you won’t get reported to the credit bureaus.

If you slip up and pay a bill late, getting hit with a late fee probably seems like punishment enough. After all, forking over an extra $25-$35 for your forgetfulness feels like a sufficient slap on the wrist.

But if your payment is more than 30 days overdue, you could expect a negative mark to land on your credit reports, regardless of whether or not you’ve coughed up a late fee. This is a good reason to prioritize paying on time – if you don’t, it could be costly in a number of ways.

2. Your credit utilization ratio is 0% if you pay your balance in full each month.

Paying off your credit card in full each month is a good habit to get into. But as you’re patting yourself on the back for avoiding interest charges, don’t forget to remain diligent about keeping track of your credit utilization ratio.

Here’s why: Your credit card issuer could send a balance report to the credit bureaus at any time during the month – not necessarily right after you’ve paid your bill. Consequently, keeping your balance below 30% of your available credit on all your cards throughout the month is key to maintaining a solid score.

3. All of your monthly bill payments are being reported to the credit bureaus.

Personal finance experts commonly recommend that we pay all of our bills on time. This is certainly important for avoiding late fees (see above), but it causes many people to assume that all of their bill payments are being reported to the credit bureaus.

This usually isn’t the case. Rent and utility payments are typically not reported unless you become seriously delinquent. You still should always pay on time, but these payments generally won’t give your score a boost.

4. Avoiding credit cards will help your credit score.

In an effort to avoid getting into debt, some people choose to forfeit credit cards altogether. While it’s true that maxing out a card will do damage to your credit score, avoiding plastic entirely usually isn’t a good idea, either.

Getting a credit card as soon as you can and using it responsibly (which means paying your bill on time and in full every month), is one of the easiest ways to start establishing a solid credit profile. The longer you go without establishing credit, the harder it will be to do so.

The takeaway? Using a credit card to build your credit doesn’t have to result in debt if you make a budget and track your spending carefully. Usually, the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks.

Try First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card for a great low rate, rewards on purchases, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees!*  Apply online today.

5. A bankruptcy will affect your credit for the rest of your life.

It’s true: Declaring personal bankruptcy will have a serious, negative impact on your credit. But don’t let Internet rumors or sensational media reports warp your thinking – a bankruptcy won’t actually trash your credit for life.

In most cases, a bankruptcy will stay on your credit reports for 10 years, and the effect of this event on your credit score will lessen over time. This is not to say that you should treat bankruptcy lightly, but it’s important to know that no negative mark has to affect your credit forever. By letting some time pass and cleaning up your credit habits, there’s always a way to bounce back.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/tips/credit-score/credit-assumptions/