Winter 2021 Newsletter

We hope all our members and their families are staying safe and healthy, as we begin a new year. Below is a digital copy of our Winter 2021 Quarterly Member Newsletter!

Please take note of the following upcoming important dates:

  • Monday, March 15thOnline Banking and Mobile App Upgrade
  • Monday, March 22ndCredit Card Conversion (* All current credit cardholders will be mailed a new credit card in early March and will need to activate it beginning on 3/22 regardless of if their old card has not expired. Previous credit cards will not work as of 3/22 at 6:45am EST and there will be new customer service numbers and a different billing address for sending monthly payments ).

In a continued effort to go green, we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branch vestibule areas.

The Winter Newsletter features the following articles:

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

We hope your 2021 is off to a great start!

Valentine’s At Home and Virtual Date Night Ideas on a Budget

This Valentine’s Day looks to be a little different, as the global pandemic continues. If you are unable to get out for a Valentine’s date night this year, or feel safer celebrating at home – here are some low cost ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day at home or virtually.

If You’re Celebrating V-Day At Home:

Fine Dining. You can definitely recreate a restaurant experience at home, complete with dressing up for the occasion and actually sitting down and/or being waited on. Take it a step further by printing real menus, get dressed up, set a fancy table, and pick your own restaurant name. Have fun cooking something you typically don’t make together, or if you have children who will be home and want to participate – include them as well and make it a fun family affair.

Ballroom (or any kind of) Dancing. You might not make it out to your local dance studio or any Valentine’s Night Out Parties this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn how to dance or dance at home and still have fun! Find a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a spin.

Game Night. Maybe it’s not the peak of romance for some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Monopoly together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. Get dressed up, serve up some snacks and pour the wine to make it feel even more like a date night.

Virtual Hometown Tours. If you didn’t grow up in the same place as your love, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity – a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places. Even if you are both from the same area, use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus — or explore a city you’re hoping to visit together someday.

At Home Spa Services. Treat yourself — and your significant other, to some DIY indulgence. Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it’s bound to be more affordable (and more fun) than it would be in a salon or day spa. Check out this list of spa treatments you can do at home.

If you can’t be with your love in person this Valentine’s Day, here are a few virtual ways to celebrate, or adapt some of these ideas to your at home February 14th plan:

Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails). Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to recreate classic first date ideas like grabbing a drink together, or a cup of coffee while chatting over your drink of choice.

Read to Each Other. This can be romantic whether you’re at home together or apart. If you’re not in the same location, you can read to each other via video chat or over the phone. The options are endless, choose a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite.

Live Stream Concerts and Events. Since the pandemic began, many entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services or made them available on their websites. Many are even free! Re-create the concert experience at home with a drink and sport some concert attire. Not to mention the added bonus of being able to hear each other talk during the virtual show and not have to shout over the music.

Virtual Movie Nights. It’s always fun to snuggle up with your sweetheart for a movie, even if it’s on the couch at home. If you’re stuck apart this year, you can spend time in front of the screen together. A browser extension called Teleparty is able to sync Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and HBO videos for multiple viewers while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen. Don’t forget the popcorn!

Arts and Crafts. A romantic idea for the daring: paint or draw each other while on a video chat application. If that’s a little too intimidating, you could also spend virtual time together being creative with a craft like knitting, cross-stitch, or something else entirely. Plan to gift each other the products of your art creation!

Some Other Tips: If you’re at home together – put away the phones and digital devices, and look for the joy in the little moments spent together. If you’re spending the holiday apart or virtually – get dressed up anyway, and remember this is only temporary.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Article Source: The Penny Hoarder

 

3 Reasons to File Your Taxes Sooner Rather Than Later

Tax day is Thursday, April 15, 2021. If you are planning on waiting until a lot closer to that day to get your taxes done, here are three reasons you should really get moving and file your taxes as soon as possible.

Sooner is better regardless of the outcome: The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get money back if you are getting a refund. If 2020 hit you hard financially, that refund may be something you’ve been banking on. And if you get the opposite result and owe the government money, you’ll have more time to save up and pay. You can’t go wrong filing as early as possible.

You’ll reduce your stress: Filing tax paperwork was probably simple when you were in your 20s. Once life gets more complicated, it’s not quite as easy or quick to file. If you know your taxes will be more difficult than in past years, lessen the stress it might cause by getting started as soon as you have your W-2. Filing early can prevent April 15th from being a source of stress.

It’ll be a smoother process: Not only is the IRS less busy at the beginning of the year, but tax professionals typically are as well. Keep this important detail in mind if you’re not filing on your own. If you file online it won’t be a big deal, but if you need a tax professional to help sort you out, you’ll be glad you got started earlier. The closer you get to April 15th, the longer the whole process will take (as well as you probably won’t be the only last minute client).

The moral of the story: Start preparing your tax documents and file as soon as possible!

Article Source: CUInsight.com

How to Shape Your Finances in a New Year

This is a good time to make sure your accounts are ready for whatever may come your way in these unprecedented times. Here are a few ways you can make sure your finances are in decent shape as we begin 2021.

Stop acting on impulse: Think about your spending habits. Do you make impulse buys whenever you want? No matter how big or small, impulse purchases can lead to trouble. If you have several entertainment subscriptions, do you know which ones you’d cut if your budget suddenly needed to be tightened? If last year taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Save as much money as you can, don’t overspend on unnecessary things, and try to keep a tight reign on your budget each month.

Know how to use a credit card: Enjoying the use of a credit card can be risky if not properly managed. Even if you find it easy to pay off your purchases each month and you love earning credit card rewards, what will you do if your financial situation takes an unexpected turn or you lose your job? Don’t spend above your means, and try to always pay your credit card bill off each month so you’re not racking up debt plus interest.

Look ahead to your future: Have you saved enough to enjoy retirement one day? Are you going to be able to leave something to your loved ones? There are often a lot of questions when it comes to your financial future and retirement. Even if you don’t have a child to be your beneficiary, most people are living longer than ever these days and you’ll want to make sure you don’t outlive your savings. If you haven’t checked in with your financial advisor lately, use the unpredictability of last year as an excuse to at least have a quick conversation with them.

Did you know First Financial has an Investment and Retirement Center which offers complimentary retirement consultations to our members?*

Contact one of our Financial Advisors today!

*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.

Article Source: CUInsight.com

5 Smart Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

As part of the COVID-19 Relief Package, the U.S. government is issuing stimulus checks to many households in an effort to boost the economy and help individuals deal with the financial impact of the global pandemic.

What is the most strategic way to use your stimulus check?

1. Cover the Essentials

Millions of people have lost their jobs or been furloughed, leaving many with smaller incomes. However, expenses have likely remained the same. Before spending your windfall, take a look at the next few months of bills that may come due and make sure you will have enough to pay for:

  • Mortgage or rent and car payments
  • Utilities, cell service and internet
  • Minimum payments on credit cards and debt
  • Insurance for vehicles and/or home

Note: Take advantage of relief programs. If you’re experiencing significant financial strain, check with your lenders and service providers to see if they’re among many who offer relief programs or special payment terms during this time.

2. Build an Emergency Fund

If you’re in a position where you don’t need the money immediately, consider setting it aside in an accessible, protected account to use when absolutely necessary. There’s no way to know how long the U.S. economy will suffer as a result of the crisis or whether your financial status may change in coming months. Stashing it away for safekeeping may help you ease a potential impending financial burden down the road.

3. Pay Off Debt

If you’re confident that you’ll have enough to cover basic expenses for the next few months, consider having your stimulus check go toward paying off credit card debt, medical bills, car payments or student loans. While some institutions may offer relief programs in the short term, those funds will still be due later on. Prioritize by paying off debt with the highest interest rates first.

4. Invest

If you’ve established a healthy emergency fund and believe you’ll remain financially secure, you may consider contributing to your retirement through a variety of investment strategies. Markets experienced some turbulence in 2020, and have since stabilized. Long-term investments may prove promising.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about how planning ahead today can pay off in your future, contact a financial professional located at your credit union.

5. Be Generous

The global pandemic has put a strain on many nonprofits as the need for the goods and services they provide climbs to an all-time high. If you’re in a financial position to help others during this time of crisis, find a nonprofit that you feel passionate about and consider donating a portion (or all) of your stimulus check funds to those who need it most.

Representatives are registered, securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, which is not an affiliate of the credit union. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/ NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution.

CBSI-3053187.2-1220-0123

5 Ways to Financially Thrive in the New Year

The time for “New year, new me” resolutions is here, and we’ve got five (actually attainable) resolutions that you’ll want to keep up with all year long. Read on to find out five ways to make 2021 a financially great year.

Learn a new (financial) language. Does listening to financial talk sometimes feel like hearing a foreign language? Instead of simply nodding along, make a resolution to improve your financial literacy this year. Finally learn the ins-and-outs of money management. There are plenty of resources online that can help you decode the definitions behind personal finance terms. You can even make a Quizlet to help you commit the terminology to memory! If you’re worried about finding the time to teach yourself this new language, try incorporating some financial podcasts into your weekly routine. By listening to financial podcasts, you can improve your finance skills while still going about your daily tasks. It’s a great way to get stuff done and get a better idea of what is going on in your wallet and bank account.

Clear out the clutter. Recurring payments can be a great time saver, but they can also get out of hand very easily. Sit down and comb through your recurring payments so you can know exactly where your money is going and when it’s being taken. Take an especially close look at your monthly subscriptions. How many television streaming services are you subscribed to? Music streaming services? There are countless entertainment streaming platforms out there, but you don’t need to subscribe to all of them. Make a list of your entertainment subscriptions and figure out which ones you actually use and which ones are just cluttering up your monthly or annual payments. This applies to paid store memberships, too — if you don’t shop at that discount warehouse much anymore, don’t forget to cancel the membership card before you get charged for the new year’s renewal!

Get creative. Don’t let yourself feel trapped by the status-quo of savings, there are many ways to get creative with your finances. Need some extra money for tighter areas in your budget but don’t know how where to get it? Look into refinancing your existing Auto Loan from another lender with us! With our low rates, your monthly payment will be more manageable, which means you’ll have more money in your pocket, ready to put to good use.*

Making the switch from a high-interest rate credit card to one of our lower-rate cards could also decrease the amount of money you’re spending per term, freeing up funds to put elsewhere.** There are so many avenues you can take to save money. Get in touch with our Loan Department, and we’ll help you get creative in finding them!

Take up a new (money-saving) hobby. Trying a new hobby can help improve one’s mood and daily motivation, but don’t forget that it could also help your wallet! Want to try improving your culinary skills? Great! Ditch the costly take-out meals and door deliveries, and resolve to cook meals at home. Halting the high delivery costs, taxes, and tips (or gas money for drive-thru and pick-up options) will drastically cut down your monthly expenses, giving you more money to spare. You could also pick up a new hobby that could help increase your income. The internet has given us a wealth of resources when it comes to finding freelance work. Skilled at editing? Explore the world of freelance editing for supplemental income. Got an artistic side? Look into starting up an online shop to sell your handmade goods on sites like Etsy or Facebook Marketplace. The options are exciting and endless (and will provide you with some supplemental income)!

Plan it out! Most people shudder at the word “budget.” It’s never fun to sit down and decide what you can’t spend money on. Instead, why not give yourself the freedom to choose what you can spend money on? This tactic for approaching money management is called a “spending plan,” and it’s a lot less intimidating than a budget. A spending plan gives you a lot more flexibility in your finances while still keeping you focused on covering your monthly essentials.

The process of determining your “non-negotiable” expenses is mainly the same as a budget: you have rent, electric, water, internet, groceries, emergency funds, etc. The difference begins when you determine your flexible categories. For example, entertainment, personal shopping, dining out, date nights, and more. A spending plan gives you the freedom to set ballpark amounts for these categories without restricting you too harshly. As long as you have your monthly non-negotiables covered, how you distribute money from month to month in your other categories doesn’t matter as much. A budget is far more restrictive, which can put you in a panicked mindset of “money is always tight, I have no wiggle room,” whereas, a spending plan gives you the control to say “I have the room to spend a little extra here this month.” Start 2021 establishing a spending plan and giving yourself the freedom to choose where your money should go and how you want to spend it!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. 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. First Financial FCU maintains the right to not extend credit, after you respond, if we determine you do not meet our guidelines for creditworthiness. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance.

**APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are 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 Fees. 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 Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.