First Financial Foundation Awards Scholarship to Rutgers University Student

Press Release

Max WitkowskiFREEHOLD, N.J. – The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation (www.firstffcu.com) awarded a $500 scholarship to Max Witkowski of New Egypt, a senior who recently graduated from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science in Manahawkin, NJ  and will attend Rutgers University (New Brunswick Honors College, NJ) in the fall.

In order to qualify for this year’s scholarship, high school seniors attending school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties were given the option to submit a written essay or create a 60 second video clip. The students must also be attending an accredited 2 or 4 year college or university in the fall of 2016. Four winners were selected to receive a $500 First Financial Foundation 2016 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship.

This year’s essay topic: You and a friend decide that you would like to start building credit. Discuss with your friend what good credit is, ways to start building credit, how your credit union can help, and the benefits earned by having good credit.

The year’s video topic: Create a 60-second video that covers the importance of financial literacy.

Witkowski submitted an essay in a script format with two friends discussing how to transition into the adult world of finance and credit. He covered the concept of credit scores, how to build them, the self-discipline it takes to keep a good one, and the benefits of having a great score. He added, “If we start building good credit it can be less challenging. When you have a higher credit score, loan interest rates can go down, so when you’re paying back your loans a couple of years from now, you won’t have to pay back as much as you otherwise might with a lower score.”

“We are thrilled to be able to aid these admirable and bright young students in their journey of success and education,” said First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan.  “Our credit union puts a high priority on education. After all, that’s how First Financial began 80 years ago – with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

# # #

About the First Financial Foundation: Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, visit http://www.firstffcu.com.

Founded by School Teachers; First Financial FCU Stays True to its Roots and its Community

Press Release

Although they offer many of the same services, credit unions operate in a fundamentally different way than banks, one based on the philosophy of “people helping people”. Credit unions were typically founded by friends, like neighbors, workers and people who worship together. In our third installment of the Legacy Series, we’re featuring a credit union founded during the Depression by a group of teachers in Asbury Park, N.J.

The Great Depression started in 1929, and continued for more than a decade. During that time, the economy came to a standstill, banks were failing left and right, and many people were resorting to the only safe haven they knew for their money – under the mattress. In 1936, a group of Asbury Park, N.J. schoolteachers decided there was another way to provide essential banking services to themselves and others, all while protecting their savings.

In true cooperative spirit, this group came together to help each other in a time of need and organized themselves into one of the earliest credit unions in America: Monmouth County, NJ Teachers Federal Credit Union. Today, 80 years later, that credit union still exists, much larger and now known as First Financial Federal Credit Union.

Getting from Monmouth County Teachers FCU to First Financial FCU took more than a few years of growth and expansion, cooperative efforts, and dedication to specific communities. Under the leadership of Harold “Pop” Shannon, the credit union grew to serve other teacher-related populations: employees of both the Monmouth and Ocean County Boards of Education. The small shop went through a name change to reflect the groups it served: Mon-Oc Teachers Federal Credit Union.

From that small office in Asbury Park (pictured), over the years the credit union expanded again to serve municipal employees (followed by another name change, to Mon-Oc Public Employees Federal Credit Union), employees of some local hospitals and nursing facilities, and several small businesses (when the name then became simply Mon-Oc Federal Credit Union).

In April 2003, Mon-Oc FCU became a community credit union, serving anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. With this expansion, the credit union became First Financial Federal Credit Union in July 2006.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, the credit union stays true to its roots as an organization founded by teachers. “Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we have stayed true to our educational roots by continuing to support our members and the local community through financial education,” says First Financial FCU President/CEO, Issa Stephan. “We hold free monthly seminars on various important topics such as budgeting, credit management, debt reduction, how to buy a home or car, and more. Our Foundation provides annual college scholarships to Monmouth and Ocean County students, as well as classroom grants to teachers within our community. We are proud to support our local teachers, students, and educate as many members of our community as we can.”

First Financial FCU may have grown and seen some changes in its 80 years, but it has stayed true to its early years as a dedicated source for financial education and services for its community.

At a credit union, you’re much more than just a customer. For more information on First Financial Federal Credit Union, including how to join, visit www.firstffcu.com or find one near you at www.BankingYouCanTrust.com.

*Click here to view the original article post courtesy of the New Jersey Credit Union League.

Kids Off To College? Here’s How To Get Them Started With Credit

ahmxmt-woman-displaying-credit-cards-in-park-college-student-2How can you build good credit if no one will give you a credit card? This is the predicament many college students face. Generally, banks and credit card companies don’t want to take a risk on someone with no credit history. But, with no credit history, adults face extreme financial limitations that can affect all kinds of situations, including renting an apartment.

Getting one’s first credit card has become an even trickier process in recent years, but fortunately if parents are willing to help get their kids set up, it can be pretty simple.

“Due to the CARD act, it’s now prohibited for credit card companies to give credit cards to anyone under 21 unless they have their own income, or have a co-signer,” said Liran Amrany, the founder and CEO of Debitize. “For parents sending their kids off to college, it’s usually a good idea to offer yourself as a co-signer so your child can start building credit.”

In fact, it’s probably a good idea to take this step before your child is off to college. Vinay Bhaskara, co-founder of CollegeVine, strongly recommends adding kids to your credit card while they’re still at home. Essentially, the earlier one forms credit with a parent’s help, the sooner they can branch out on their own.

“In practice, establishing credit is a process that should actually start in high school, where the parent makes their child an authorized user on one or more of the parent’s cards,” said Bhaskara. “The student should spend a little bit each month to start building some credit history. After a few months, they can set up a student credit card with a small ($500-800) limit. From there, the student is off and running.”

If your child is already starting college in the fall and hasn’t yet forged a line of credit, you can still add them as an authorized user. Also, Bhaskara notes, your child will probably discover a bank on campus that can set them up with student credit accounts.This may also require your co-signature.

The earlier that young adults can form credit with a parent’s help, the sooner they can branch out on their own.

If your credit is decent, you shouldn’t have any issue adding your child to your credit card. The real challenge comes with making sure they understand the responsibility of having a credit card.

“Because the easiest way parents can help their children establish and build credit is to initially co-sign and/or open joint accounts, they must be willing to talk with their children honestly and openly about what they’re comfortable with in terms of spending by the student,” said Bhaskara. “Parents are also probably the most important source of personal finance knowledge for their children, so they must be comfortable with this concept.”

You’ll want to explain that if they’re attached to your credit card, any irresponsible actions can reflect poorly on you and the good credit history you’ve worked years to build. Also, you’ll want to set spending limits, if not through the credit card company, then through a verbal or written contract with your child.

Ideally, your child will be on your card for awhile, and then branch off to get his or her own credit card(s). It’s important to continue educating your kids at this point of independence. If they’ve built up good credit with your help, credit card offers are going to start pouring in, and young adults may be all too tempted by the deceptive promise of money at their fingertips.

“Money is already tight enough for college students, so while the thought of quick and easy money is appealing, the reality of 20 percent interest rates can be crippling, especially if you won’t be able to really start paying down balances until after graduation,” said Kristina Ellis, financial expert and author of How to Graduate Debt Free: The Best Strategies to Pay for College. “Teach them to be wise and very leery of the dangers of credit card debt.”

Ellis also stresses that under no conditions should students turn to credit cards to pay for college, as “in most cases, the benefits of spending on student credit cards don’t come close to the eventual costs.”

First Financial can help your college students build and establish credit!* There are no balance transfer fees, no annual fees, and our cards are also equipped with an EMV chip for maximum security. To apply or for more information, please call 732.312.1500 Option 4, visit our website, or email info@firstffcu.com.

*APR varies from 11.15% to 18% 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. Federally insured by NCUA.

Original article source courtesy of Nicole Audrey of NBC News.

How to Build Savings From Zero

bigstock-Lost-Funds-Broken-Piggy-Bank-50641262

You’ve seen the numbers. They aren’t pretty.

A recent Bankrate.com survey of 1,000 adults suggests that 66 million American adults have zero dollars saved for an emergency. That dovetails nicely with a report that came out earlier this year from the Federal Reserve, which looked at the economic well-being of American households. And things are not going so well. About one-third of 5,695 respondents to a 2015 survey revealed they would have trouble dealing with a $400 emergency.

Sound familiar? Start building your savings with some of these methods.

Start small. That’s advice from Mackey McNeill, founder and president of Mackey Advisors, a wealth management firm in Bellevue, Kentucky.

“If you have never saved anything in your life, save $5 a week or $10 a week,” McNeill says, adding: “Pick a number that, regardless of disaster, you can achieve.”

After you do that, McNeill advises, “Put the money in a separate account and review it once a month. After three months, consider an increase. After three more months, consider an increase again,” and keep repeating.

“The reason people fail at saving is they start too high. … So they set themselves up for failure,” she says. “Start small. You will be so excited that you met your goal, you will automatically want to do more and achieve more. When you start small, you set yourself up for success. Success begets success. I have never had anyone try this who did not succeed.”

Reward yourself when you save money. This is important, McNeill says, advising that whatever the reward be, make it something free.

For instance: If you save $10 a week, then every time you hit $40 saved, rent a movie at the library or take a walk in the park, she explains.

Whatever you do, “make it something that really nurtures you,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what it is. A hot bath will work. But when you give yourself the reward, you are reinforcing the behavior you want.”

Trim back your expenses. One thing that probably keeps most people from saving more is that there may not be enough money to go around. That’s definitely the case if there are expenses that could be easily cut, or debt that’s weighing you down.

When you’re beginning to put together a plan to save money, or begin your accumulation phase, the first thing to do is pay off any high-interest debt like credit cards. Paying off high-interest debt is the most important first step in beginning any accumulation phase because everything you pay off, you are eventually saving money on high interest.

Make it easy. Assuming you have a financial institution – a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation study suggests that 9 million Americans don’t – the easiest way to save money is to set up a savings account and then direct a specific amount to go regularly from your checking account to your savings account, says Michael Eisenberg, a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist with Innovative Wealth Advisors in Encino, California.

“Every time your paycheck hits your checking account, you should instruct your financial institution to move a set sum directly into your savings account,” he says. “This makes it easy and seamless.”

Eventually, he says, you won’t even miss the money because it’s automatically disappearing, and you’ll get used to working with the money going into your checking account.

Susan Howe, a certified public accountant in Philadelphia, echoes that advice. “Even a modest amount will add up quickly if you set it for a weekly transfer. Just be sure there are no fees,” she says.

Try opening a 401(k) or an IRA. That’s what Leonard Wright, a wealth management advisor in San Diego, suggests. In particular, Wright recommends opening up a Roth 401(k) or a Roth IRA.

“This money grows tax-free for life, is not subject to required minimum distributions when you retire and best of all, is tax-free when you need it – and can help with education expenses for your children,” he says.

But McNeill notes that wherever you put your money, whether in a 401(k) or other savings account, “in the beginning, it’s irrelevant,” – as long as you’re saving money somewhere. “What you are trying to do is create a new habit.”

How will you begin preparing for your retirement today? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1564, email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

*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. Non-deposit 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.

*Original article source courtesy of Geoff Williams of US News.

First Financial Foundation Awards Scholarship to High Point University Student

Press Release

Kelsey QuinnFREEHOLD, N.J. – The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation (www.firstffcu.com) awarded a $500 scholarship to Kelsey Quinn of Howell, a senior who recently graduated from Freehold High School. She will be attending High Point University (High Point, NC) in the fall.

In order to qualify for this year’s scholarship, high school seniors attending school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties were given the option to submit a written essay or create a 60 second video clip. The students must also be attending an accredited 2 or 4 year college or university in the fall of 2016. Four winners were selected to receive a $500 First Financial Foundation 2016 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship.

This year’s essay topic: You and a friend decide that you would like to start building credit. Discuss with your friend what good credit is, ways to start building credit, how your credit union can help, and the benefits earned by having good credit.

The year’s video topic: Create a 60-second video that covers the importance of financial literacy.

Quinn constructed a thoughtful essay, beginning with the importance of having a good credit score, the need for having the basic knowledge for creating a good score, and the commitment to be responsible with credit. She included ways to build credit with a secured credit card, a credit builder loan, or to have a co-signer for an unsecured credit card. She stated, “Credit, in the long run, can have a big impact on your life. It can decide whether you get to rent that beautiful apartment that you want, or whether you can get your dream car. There are many things that your credit score controls, and having a good one can make your life a lot easier.”

“We are thrilled to be able to aid these admirable and bright young students in their journey of success and education,” said First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan.  “Our credit union puts a high priority on education. After all, that’s how First Financial began 80 years ago – with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

# # #

About the First Financial Foundation: Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, visit http://www.firstffcu.com.

FREE Business Seminar: DIY Marketing Studio Roadshow

Brand marketing concept with notebook, brand tag and coffee cup on office desk

As a small business owner, it’s not always feasible to hire an outside marketing agency, therefore you simply add another “hat” to your role and tackle the marketing yourself. We know it’s a lot to take on, so join us along with experts Judyth Brown of Walkabout Media Enterprises and Nichole Nappi of N2 Design Services for an interactive workshop to help with all things marketing for your business. From copy writing to web design, we’ve got you covered!

Attending this workshop, you will learn:

  • How to revitalize marketing projects
  • How to optimize your copy writing, social media, graphic & web design, and SEO skills for your business
  • Marketing breakout mini sessions with DIY Marketing Studio – receive expert Marketing tips for your business

Join us on Wednesday, September 14th at 8:30am for networking and a light breakfast followed by our 90-minute workshop at 9am to 10:30am, DIY Marketing Studio Roadshow presented by Judyth Brown of Walkabout Media Enterprises and Nichole Nappi of N2 Design Services. The event will be held at First Financial’s Corporate Office located at 391 Route 9 North in Freehold, NJ. Space is limited – register below. *There will be one-on-one time at the end of the workshop for all attendees to discuss your marketing objectives with the presenters.

Judyth Brown: In the last decades of the last century, Ms. Brown was proudly computer illiterate and determined to remain that way. Since then she has come to her senses in a big way. She now holds a master’s degree in adult education, she started teaching adult computer literacy, and traveled the U.S. delivering business training on digital marketing.  Ms. Brown’s company, Walkabout Media Enterprises, provides local businesses with email marketing and social media management services. Her background in adult education made partnership with Constant Contact an easy choice. As a Constant Contact Authorized Local Expert, she explains the ins and outs of digital marketing, helping small businesses grow with email and social media. Ms. Brown is currently based in the Jersey Shore Arts Center, the beautiful former Neptune High School, offering insight to the digital tools that help businesses thrive.

Nichole Nappi: Nichole Nappi, is a graphic designer and digital artist. She received her Bachelors Degree in Fine Art with a Computer Graphics concentration from Monmouth University. She currently owns a design business, N2 Design Services, and has been serving the business community for over 10 years. Ms. Nappi has worked as a graphic designer at the Asbury Park Press, as a production artist for both a silk-screener and a corrugated box company. By having a diverse background in production and design, she is able to work efficiently to create projects that can be produced in different media. Ms. Nappi currently lives in Wall, New Jersey with her husband and son and enjoys cycling vacations, reading, spending time with her family and creating abstract digital art.

Both Judyth Brown and Nichole Nappi started the DIY Marketing Studio, a community based initiative located in Neptune, NJ. Twice a month small business owners meet with the studio’s creative hosts for expert advice in branding, social media management, and marketing strategy. To learn more about the DIY studio, visit their Facebook page and sign up for sessions on meetup.