First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to the Alpha School

Press Release

(L to R: First Financial’s AVP of Business Development, Grant recipient Ms. Sara Stockton, First Financial’s VP of Marketing and President/CEO).

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Alpha School special education teacher, Sara Stockton, was recently surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $500 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2019-2020 school year. The Alpha School exists to assist special needs students ranging in age from 5 to 21, and has offered educational, therapeutic, and support services to its students since 1980. The school is located in Jackson, NJ.

Ms. Stockton submitted a grant application which included an informative video – to purchase a break box, seven foot tepee, and sensory tool kit for her classroom that consists of six male students ages 10 to 13.

“One of the biggest goals of mine is to have the boys be self-advocates and to ask for breaks when they need it,” said Stockton. “A lot of them have sensory issues and have trouble dealing with the day to day structure. I believe in manipulating their environment and having something right in front of them that they can remember to ask for, a place where they feel comfortable and safe.”

Never give up on anybody or anything … miracles happen every day.

(L to R: First Financial’s AVP of Business Development, Grant recipient Ms. Sara Stockton, Alpha School Principal Mr. John Gonzalez, and First Financial’s President/CEO).

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators seven (7) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” noted First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just seven winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received double the amount of classroom grant entries this year, which included heartwarming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs within their schools,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the seven initiatives in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to HC Johnson Elementary

Press Release

(Pictured above L to R: First Financial’s President/CEO, VP of Marketing and Business Development, and AVP of Business Development, with a group of students from H.C. Johnson Elementary’s aquaponic gardening classroom.)

FREEHOLD, N.J. – H.C. Johnson Elementary School media specialist Carrie Hogan and music teacher Missy O’Keeffe, were recently surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $492.88 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2019-2020 school year. Both educators have recognized the transformative power of service and social-emotional learning with the creation of the Jackson elementary school’s aquaponic garden.

Hogan and O’Keeffe submitted a grant application to purchase seeds, herbs, and soil for the elementary school’s aquaponics garden and lab located within the building’s library. The grant money will be used to provide the Jackson community with fresh vegetables and herbs, and crops from their micro-farm will be donated to the local food pantry to help those in need.

(Pictured above L to R: Grant recipients Carrie Hogan and Missy O’Keeffe with their aquaponic gardening students.)

“According to the Center for Food Action, one in every 10 New Jersey residents faces food insecurity, meaning they do not have an adequate, consistent supply of food. This affects young children, senior citizens, and many families in our local community,” said Hogan and O’Keeffe. “The guiding principle of our program is the belief that all students should be provided with a learning environment that supports and challenges their thinking. This classroom will provide students with the opportunity to take ownership over their own learning, and they will be given the chance to sharpen their critical thinking skills. Most importantly, it allows our students to see the impact that their own actions have upon their local community.”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators seven (7) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” said First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just seven winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received double the amount of classroom grant entries this year, which included heartwarming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs within their schools,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the seven initiatives in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

 

Saving Money Now to Help Plan Your Future Retirement

Retirement. It seems like a lifetime away, right? It’s probably something you plan to worry about when you’re a little closer to your retirement date as well. However, financial experts suggest that the best time to start planning is in your 20s when you typically start earning a steady paycheck.

Regardless of your retirement date, it’s never too early to start planning for your retirement. You may be asking, “Where is the best place to start?” and “How should I invest my money to maximize the returns I see at retirement?” Both of these are great questions that we will delve into on this post.

Set your goals.

This applies to 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and 40-somethings. How do you know what steps to take if you don’t know where you’re going?

Sit down and figure out your goals. Do you want to buy a house one day? How long do you need to rent and save money? What “bad debt” do you need to pay off now to help you in the long run? These answers may change as life circumstances change, but it’s helpful to know what your goals are and create a plan to achieve them before you set out on your savings adventure.

Take advantage of your employee benefits.

Does your company offer a retirement savings account? Many full-time employers will offer either a 401(k) or a SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees Individual Retirement Account). It’s important to understand what these accounts are, how they work, and whether or not it’s a viable option for you.

What’s the difference between a 401(k) and a SIMPLE IRA?

A 401(k) is an investment account you make contributions to out of each paycheck. If your employer matches your contribution up to a certain percentage, that’s free money going into your 401(k) in addition to the contributions you’re making.

A SIMPLE IRA is a tax-deferred employer-provided retirement plan. Like a 401(k), you make pre-tax contributions from your paycheck, and your employer can also elect to match your contributions up to a certain percentage. Unlike a ROTH IRA, when you reach retirement age and begin drawing from the SIMPLE IRA, you will pay taxes on the money you’ve saved.

Good debt vs. bad debt.

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as good debt. Debt to buy a home or to start a business is considered good debt as it can be used as collateral. To our 20-somethings, listen up! Consumer debt: credit cards, car loans, and student loans often come with high-interest rates, which may only hurt you as you get older. Educate yourself on interest rates before taking out one of these types of loans (especially for credit card usage).

No matter what age you are, the best thing you can do is to avoid buying things you can’t afford. But, if you have debt or need to go into debt for a major purchase, have a plan to get out of that debt promptly. Look for areas within your monthly budget where you can reduce spending and cut unnecessary costs.

Check out debt consolidation and refinancing options.

Consolidating debt and refinancing loans are two great ways to save money on your monthly payments. Debt consolidation is typically used for unsecured debt and is especially effective for high-interest debt like credit cards, while refinancing a loan enables borrowers to “redo” an existing loan to get a lower monthly payment, different term length or a more convenient payment structure.

Both options are a great way of saving money each month. Ideally, you’d be able to measure the savings you’re seeing and put that toward your retirement planning. It might not sound like a lot of money, but even if you were able to save $50 a month, at the end of a year you’d have $600 to put toward your retirement.

Do you have debt that can be consolidated? Do you have loans that may need to be refinanced? You never know what your options are until you ask! Check with your local branch to see if we can save you some money each month to put toward your retirement.*

To take it a step further, did you know First Financial has an Investment and Retirement Center which offers complimentary retirement consultations to our members?**

Stop in or call to make an appointment with one of our Financial Advisors today!

The truth is, there are a dozen different ways you can prepare for retirement early and start saving money. You just have to find the ways that work for you, and we are here to answer any questions you might have and get you started!

*Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Federally insured by NCUA.

**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.

The Rising Cost of Healthcare

It’s open enrollment season, and most of us are thinking about the best healthcare option for us going into the new year. Only one thing is certain when it comes to healthcare: the cost for us to stay healthy is constantly increasing. When it comes time to choose a plan, there are multiple factors to consider so you can budget wisely.

Choose your plans based on more than the premium. 

People often select their healthcare plan based on the monthly fee they will pay for coverage. However, when you choose a plan based solely on this component, you could end up paying more in the long run. There are several other factors to consider when choosing a healthcare plan that will fit your health as well as your financial needs. Factors include:

  • Co-payment (the flat dollar amount you pay when you need care)
  • Deductible (the amount you must pay before the insurance begins to pay)
  • Co-insurance (the percentage of permitted charges for covered services that you’re required to pay)
  • Maximum out-of-pocket costs (the maximum amount you will pay for healthcare services).

Take your previous health history into account. 

You can’t predict the exact amount of insurance you or your family will need. However, you can take your past medical history and family medical history into account when you’re selecting a plan.
By taking these factors into account, you should be able to get a ballpark idea of the amount of coverage you’ll need, barring no serious medical emergencies.

Choose wisely. 

When you’ve signed on for healthcare coverage and the open enrollment period passes, you aren’t able to change your plan during the year unless you experience a big life event. Healthcare.gov describes a big life event as marriage, having a baby, or losing your other healthcare coverage. If you experience one of those situations, you can typically amend your plan outside of open enrollment. Because of this, it’s important to choose a plan that works best for your health as well as your budget.

Plan ahead.

While healthcare coverage can be good to have when it comes to covering medical expenses, it never hurts to have extra funds. Before an unexpected medical expense arises, plan ahead and set aside some money every month in a savings account. Anything you can stow away for a rainy day will be helpful when the time comes to use those extra funds.

First Financial is here to help. Talk to one of our Member Service Representatives today about setting up a special savings account and be prepared for the unexpected.**
Like most things in life, there’s no one-size-fits-all health insurance plan. You have to choose the best one for you and your budget.

*This blog was written for financial purposes only, and not written by a healthcare professional. This article should not be taken as medical advice.

**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 program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. 

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Cedar Drive Middle School

Press Release

(Pictured above L to R: First Financial’s President/CEO and VP of Marketing and Business Development, Grant recipient Mrs. Sara Campbell, Middle school student Harry Strack, and Mrs. Lori Press).

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Colts Neck’s Cedar Drive Middle School handicap teacher, Sara Campbell, was recently surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $416.77 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2019-2020 school year. Mrs. Campbell has been an elementary school teacher for 14 years, and recently began teaching students with developmental and intellectual disabilities at the middle school level.

Campbell submitted a grant application to purchase equipment for the school’s Colts Cafe. The grant money will be used to continue to change the culture of the school – one snack at a time, through service and vocational skills. Using an old technology cart, a small group of Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Lori Press’ students started selling snacks and coffee to teachers at the school. This went over so well with the teachers, the idea was suggested to also begin selling snacks to students at the school. The classroom grant awarded will go toward purchasing commercial quality popcorn machines, popcorn, scoops, popcorn seasoning, and popcorn distribution bags.

“When we began to sell coffee and treats to the teachers, our students gained self-confidence and found a place in a community where they had been living on the outskirts,” said Campbell. “They became of service, they found a purpose. And a community found something they didn’t know they were missing.”

(Pictured above L to R: Cedar Drive Middle School Principal Mr. Colin Rigby, Mrs. Sara Campbell, student Harry Strack, and Mrs. Lori Press).

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators seven (7) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” said First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just seven winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received double the amount of classroom grant entries this year, which included heartwarming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs within their schools,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the seven initiatives in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this November 2019

It’s time to kick off the start of the holiday season and there are so many great things to do with family and friends in the upcoming weeks to celebrate this special time of year! Check out our list of free or inexpensive activities happening this month in a town near you. We hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

November 1: Jersey Shore Ghost Tour (Red Bank). Don’t miss the last night of this lantern-lit walking ghost tour through historic Red Bank! Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Ticket sales begin at 8pm and the tour will leave at 8:30pm from Dublin House at 30 Monmouth Street. Learn more and book online here.

November 1 – 3: Stocking Stuffer Craft Show at Allaire Village (Wall). Starting at 10am on both Friday & Saturday and noon on Sunday until 3pm each of the three days, this once a year event features handcrafted items that are perfect for holiday season gifts! You’ll find ornaments, scarves, decorations, a handmade quilt raffle, and more. Get more information here.

November 2:

Fall Fest and Chili Contest at Old Glory (Keyport) from 1-7pm.  Besides the chili making contest, there will also be a DJ, petting zoo, a pumpkin throwing contest, live music, bull riding and more! Find out more details here. You won’t want to miss this fun event for the whole family!

Awesome Autumn Fun at Jakes Branch County Park (Beachwood) from 1-4pm. Take a hayride through nature trails, participate in fall-themed games, get your face painted, there will be a petting zoo, hot apple cider, costumed characters, and more.  Free to attend!  Learn more here.

November 9:

Late Fall Flea Market at Allaire Village (Wall). Hunt for bargains among vintage treasures, books, art work, handmade items, knick knacks and so much more! The event runs from 8am – 3pm and is $2 per person to attend. The Historic Village, Pilsen Gourmet Food Truck, General Store, and Bakery will be open as well. Learn more here.

Fall Craft Show at the Ft. Monmouth Recreation Area (Tinton Falls) from 9am-2pm. Shop for special gifts from over 50 unique craft vendors just in time for the holiday season! You’ll find holiday ornaments and decorations, jewelry, candles, soaps, paintings, baskets, embroidered items and more. Free admission and parking. Learn more by clicking this link.

November 16: Thanks4Giving Turkey Dash 5K and Splash from 10:30am to 3pm at Convention Hall (Asbury Park).  Participate in either the 5K race, cold turkey plunge, or both! The 5K dash goes from Asbury Park to Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach. Cost for the 5K is $35 and the turkey splash is $25 paid in advance (you can also register a team).  All proceeds will go to the Special Olympics of NJ. Register or donate here.

November 17: Annual Granny’s Attic Craft Show (Thompson Middle School, Middletown) from 9am to 4pm. Don’t miss more than 250 craft vendors – perfect for holiday shopping! There will also be food trucks from 11am to 6pm. Admission is $5 per adult, kids ages 3-14 are $2, and under 3 are free. There will be shuttle busses running continuously from Middletown Train Station to Thompson Middle School. There will also be hourly 50/50 raffles and a grand prize raffle at the end of the event. Find out more here.

November 22: Pizza and Penguins at Jenkinson’s Aquarium (Pt. Pleasant) from 6 to 7:30pm. Your favorite flightless bird will make a special dinnertime appearance while you enjoy pizza and drinks! Learn all about them, ask their keepers questions, and meet Perky the Penguin.  Pre-registration is required. Call 732-899-1659 or visit Jenkinson’s website for event details.  Event cost is $20 for adults and $15 for children.

November 23 & 24: Wine and Chocolate Weekend at 4JG’s Vineyard (Colts Neck) from 12-5pm. Sip award winning wines, sample delicious locally hand-crafted chocolates and relax. The fire pit will be going (weather permitting), come join the fun! Admission is $15 per adult (ages 21+ only). Learn more here.

November 29: Santa Express and Parade (Red Bank) from 6:45-8pm. Santa rides the NJ Transit train into Red Bank for the annual town lighting and holiday express concert. Join Santa on the train in Little Silver or meet him at the Red Bank train station when he arrives. There’ll be festivities before and after the train arrives with holiday dancers and the Pipes and Drums of the Atlantic Watch. Once in Red Bank, Santa will board a firetruck and lead the parade to Broad Street for the Holiday Express Concert and Town Tree Lighting. This event is free for all ages! Find out more information here.

November 30:

Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar at Convention Hall from 11am-10pm. Check out local and regional artists, vendors, and shops selling handmade art, jewelry, home goods, food, and more. The event will feature live music and special performances, photos with Santa, holiday photo booth pictures, a 30 foot Christmas tree, fireplace lounge, and beautiful holiday decor. While you shop, enjoy a seasonally-inspired menu and holiday drinks at the Anchors Bend and Asbury Oyster Bar. There will alos be kids art classes and holiday craft workshops. Get additional details here.

Seashell Festival (Ship Bottom, LBI) from 10am-3pm. Don’t miss seashells, seaglass, and holiday fun in the 2nd annual LBI Seashell Festival at Things A Drift on Long Beach Blvd. Bring your beach finds and compete in the best shell contest, enjoy some homemade cookies, and support local businesses for Small Business Weekend. There will be vendors with handmade nautical jewelry, art, home decor, holiday gifts and more!  Free admission.  Learn more at https://thingsadrift.com/