The One Way to Never Fall Into Debt Again

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Debt is literally a four letter word; it just also happens to mean you owe money.

Many Americans have a dream they’ll never realize: living without debt. Yet, the dream is possible for nearly everyone – just be prepared for the sea change of behavior required to make it happen. If you are unprepared, your ship will never make it to the safe harbor of paradise, and you will crash upon the jagged rocks of financial ruin.

Follow these simple steps to make your dreams of a safe financial future come true, and steer clear of financial ruin.

Make Up Your Mind

Many people fall into debt because they grow complacent, spending above and beyond their means, living from paycheck to paycheck with barely enough to make the bills. They don’t have enough to pay for dinner out on Friday, the new clothes that go with it, or the movie after.

Yet they do it anyway, and on the credit card the spending goes. The honest, painful truth is that if you don’t have the money for those things, you shouldn’t be doing them. Learning to be satisfied with your limitations is difficult. You want to be accepted by your personal crowd, but if your crowd’s habits are decaying your account balance one bad habit at a time, you have to ask yourself if the consequences are really worth it.

Once you decide that the lush greens of financial security offer an abundance that the Jones’ can’t match, then the seas gets glassy and the waters are far easier to ease through.

Say Goodbye

Once you’ve made up your mind to live within your means, it’s time to say goodbye to your plastic.

Either cut them or bury them far, far away. You may even want to freeze your credit cards. You can’t open the dam for the credit flood waters if you don’t have access to it. Don’t panic. It’ll be tough at first to say goodbye because you’ll feel like you’re being left without a life preserver, but the truth is you’ll be gaining a lifeboat in exchange.

Pay Off Your Debt First

Cutting up your card was the first step. Now you must be proactive about slashing it to zero. Snowballing is an extremely effective way to quickly demolish your debt. Establish your payoff plan and stick to it. This debt is now a “need” on your financial map.

You have a plan for paying off your credit cards, now lay out your map to help you get from paycheck A to paycheck B.

Lay Out Your Map

What are your needs? What are your wants?

By organizing your finances by needs and wants on a paycheck to paycheck scale, you can pay off the needs first, then have whatever is left for you. When you draw your financial map, classify bills, debts, and savings as needs, don’t forget to calculate things like clothes and the once in a while purchases too. Otherwise, your budget won’t resemble reality. The only rule is to determine needs from wants when you allot your funds.

Track Your Money

The beauty of online bill pay is that using it for everything keeps you from running blind through your budget, while showing you exactly what’s happening with your balance. Without credit or debit cards sucking the life from your account, it’s one way in and two ways out – cash and bill pay.

Use bill pay for everything and withdraw your cash for the extras bill pay can’t handle such as gas and petty expenses. Once your cash is gone. You’re done. No more spending until the next paycheck is securely in your account.

Remember to withdraw enough cash to get you through. Allot the amount of cash required for groceries, fuel, kid’s needs, and anything else you may need for the period. If you know your child needs new clothes, establish a plan for that spending and only use cash you have readily available.

Some people label envelopes so they can distribute the cash they need to the places they need it, without cutting into funds from another category. Do whatever works for your mind and your system. The only unbreakable rule is that you can’t spend beyond the cash you have, so you must manage it well.

Once you have learned to live within your means, and have your debt under control, life will be sweeter and you’ll never return to the choppy waters of too much debt again.

*Original article courtesy of Vincent King of MoneyNing.

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.”

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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

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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.