Financial Milestones Everyone Needs to Achieve

Everyone has a different life plan and different expenses. No matter what that looks like, make sure you’re checking off these financial milestones.

Start saving for retirement.

It’s very important to start saving early for your retirement. You benefit more from saving early, and the longer you wait, you’ll have a lot less.

Pay off student loans.

Education is getting more and more expensive and the student debt crisis is consistently in the news as a serious problem. Some students have resigned to never paying their debt off and just perpetually rolling them over. Pay them off as soon as you can.

Establish a good credit history.

While you may have missed some payments when you were younger and made some mistakes with your finances, it is important to redeem them. Developing a solid credit history will help with big purchases and shows how responsible you can be with paying your bills.

Invest in more than a retirement plan.

Whether it’s something simple like mutual funds or something more advanced like stocks, it is important to have your money diversified in something beyond a basic savings account.

Maximize employer benefits.

If you work somewhere that provides you with perks, you should be using them to the fullest. Employer match accounts are effectively the closest thing to free money that exists, so the sooner you maximize your benefits, the better.

Have a positive net worth.

This is the moment that everything you earn becomes pure profit. There is nothing more exciting than when assets – liabilities = a positive number.

Buy your first home.

Buying a home is easily one of the largest financial obligations most people will experience, and it may determine your spending habits for the future.

Deciding when to retire.

There are quite a few things to consider when it comes to retirement, and they differ for everyone. Deciding when to collect social security, how much you need in savings, and how you plan to spend are just a few of the things you may need to think about.

If you need advice or help with putting any of these financial milestones in place for your lifestyle – contact First Financial! We can help you purchase a home, create and manage a budget, assist you with improving your credit score, consolidate your debt, and our Investment and Retirement Center can help you retire and invest with peace of mind.* Contact us today to get started.

*$5 in a base savings account is your membership deposit and is required to remain in your base savings account at all times to be a member in good standing. All credit unions require a membership deposit. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth and Ocean County.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

5 Ways to Keep Your Credit Card from Sabotaging Your Finances

Understand the terms of the card.

You shouldn’t apply for a credit card without reading the terms. Evaluate the card based on the fees, interest rates, and possible rewards. The many cards available each fit different consumers. You have a lot of options and choosing the wrong card could threaten your financial health.

Pay in full.

Making only the minimum payment each month increases the amount of time it will take to pay off your debt. That increase in time allows the interest rate to add on to your debt. Always make sure to pay off as much of your balance as you can each month.

Don’t use your card on everyday purchases.

Using you credit card as a substitute for cash is a bad habit that can easily lead you down a path to debt. When you buy food, clothes, or gas, try to use cash or your debit card so you won’t overspend.

Don’t go over your limit.

If you’re getting close to your limit, clearly you are spending too much. The last thing you can afford to do is go over that limit and incur the additional fees that come with it. These situations are avoidable by responsibly monitoring your spending.

Understand how it effects your credit score.

Ideally you should be paying off your debt every month. If you are unable to do that, you have to make sure that you are paying off at least the minimum (but preferably more than the minimum). This will not damage your credit score, but it will not improve it either. If you miss a payment you can do major damage to your credit score. If you look untrustworthy to creditors it’s not beyond reason that the credit card company would lower your limit. It is a vicious cycle that can be easily avoided by paying in full each month.

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards come fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, rewards, and so much more!* Click here to learn about our cards and apply online today.

*APR varies from 11.40% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 13.40% to 18% for the Visa Signature and Secured Cards 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.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

5 Ways to Stop Identity Theft

As a lot of us have had to find out the hard way, identity theft is a real threat and it can be damaging to your finances and personal life. Make sure you’re doing all you can to keep yourself safe. Here are 5 things you can do to stay protected.

Have secure passwords.

Stop using the word ‘password’ as your password. And don’t use your mother’s maiden name. Create a complex password that only you can remember. For instance, maybe you’re a big Alabama football fan. Use initials, symbols, and numbers to create your password. For example: *BamaWins2018!  Nobody’s going to guess that one. According to howsecureismypassword.net, it would take a computer millions of years to crack that password.

Shred sensitive information.

Your weekly routine probably involves bringing your garbage can out to the street on trash day. Make sure when this happens, you’re not throwing anything away that an identity thief could find valuable. Anything that contains account numbers, banking information, or social security numbers would be a gold mine for a thief. Get online, buy a paper shredder and put it to work. This is the easiest way to help yourself stay protected.

Check your credit report.

If checking your credit report isn’t something you do regularly, you should make it one. If a thief opens up an account in your name, this will affect your credit score and that can be an easy red flag to detect. Try annualcreditreport.com.

Be careful with the internet.

Cybercriminals can get your information a few ways, one of which is phishing. Phishing is when a cybercriminal defrauds you of sensitive information by posing as a legitimate company that you trust. Make sure you never click a link in an email that’s asking you for personal information. You’ll never get an email like this if you didn’t request it, and even then, contact the company and have it verified. Also, make sure you’re not doing sensitive things like logging into your bank website from a coffee shop’s wifi. Wait until you get home to check your account balance.

Monitor your accounts.

It’s important to login to your online banking often, and review each transaction. If you find something that wasn’t purchased by you, contact your financial institution immediately. It’s very important to monitor your accounts regularly and keep a close eye on your money.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

6 Tips for Making Fiscal Fitness Goals Stick

A sporting equipment - two red dumbbells. Isolated over white.

If you often struggle with setting financial goals and making them stick throughout the year, try these six tips.

1. Use the SMART principle.

The acronym SMART is a good way to remember an effective strategy for setting your fiscal finance goals. Make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific. In other words, instead of deluding yourself that you’ll completely overhaul years of poor money management, start to tackle it in bite-size portions. Keeping goals specific also makes them seem more real and tangible than the undefined “improving my financial fitness.”

2. Incorporate the new practice into your routine.

Science shows we are creatures of habit. Once something is part of our routine, even if it’s an unpleasant task, we don’t seem to mind it as much. Getting to that point requires making a deliberate effort to incorporate new financial habits into your routine. To make this step easier, set up reminders on your smartphone calendar for specific times and dates you’ll set aside to address various aspects of your finances, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly.

3. Keep doing it – repetition leads to habit.

The more frequently you perform a new financial task as part of your routine, the sooner it becomes a habit – something that doesn’t require any willpower. That’s the trick.

4. Don’t judge yourself for failures – expect them.

Half the battle of following through with new goals of any kind is how you handle failure. If we were to ask the people who succeed at sticking to their goals what their secret was, you can almost guarantee it involves expecting and accounting for failure. Instead of hoping you won’t fail, plan to fail. That may seem pessimistic, but it’s more realistic than thinking you’ll be perfect! After all, we’re just human. It’s what you do after you fall that makes the difference between permanent failure at financial goals and long-term success.

5. Give yourself some wiggle room to account for slacking off.

You should create some wiggle room into your fiscal fitness improvement plans. Round up or down, schedule a “slack” day or two, and don’t make plans that are too rigid or that depend too heavily on your own consistency. This will take some of the pressure off and allow you to move forward even if you are taking a step back every once in a while.

6. Hold yourself accountable.

Even as you expect to fail and leave yourself some room to slack off, don’t go to the opposite extreme of approaching your fiscal fitness goals without purposefulness. One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable is to make your intentions public and ask others to support you. There’s power in numbers. Just as it’s easier to commit to a 5 a.m. workout if you have someone by your side, it’s easier to change the numbers that determine your financial fitness when you use the buddy system.

Instead of refusing to make financial goals because you’ll inevitably fail, use the expectation of failure, along with these tips, to move beyond that cycle this year. Gradually and deliberately improve your financial well-being and turn that ship around toward financial success.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

4 Money Habits You Should Adopt Today

Piggy bank with yellow sticky notes on wooden background

Make wise credit purchases

A credit card can be a valuable tool, but if used incorrectly, it can create debt that becomes tough to tackle. Only use your credit card for purchases you can pay off each month. Using your card this way is a great way to build a good credit score, just make sure you’re being careful when paying with plastic.

Be on the lookout…

…for savings. It doesn’t matter how big or small the purchase, you can probably find it cheaper somewhere else. Have you checked the competitor’s prices? Looked online? Check out Amazon. They can probably save you a few dollars and have it at your door within 48 hours if you’re taking advantage of Amazon Prime.

Auto schedule your bills

Have you mapped out your monthly bills and their due dates? If you haven’t, now would be a good time to start. Look at the due dates, compare them to your pay schedule and design an auto pay schedule that will keep you from missing any payments. Paying your bills on time is a must to keep that credit score up.

Be frugal

No matter how much money you make, you should try to live below your means. This will give you a chance to save more for the future – where your future self will thank you.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

How to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster

Stack of books isolated on white background.

No matter the circumstances, student loans really are not a fun part of adult life. Here are some pointers for getting rid of them faster:

Get motivated to pay them off sooner.

In reality, paying off student loans ahead of schedule will really just put you in a better financial state in the future. You’ll pay less interest over time and you won’t actually be stuck with the same student loan for 20 years like your term says you will. Find a really good reason that’s personal to you that drives you to pay them off faster. Imagine your life without student loans. Think of anything that will keep you strong in the student loan pay off game.

Pay more than the monthly minimum payment.

Whether it’s $20, $200 or any random amount in between, making a higher payment than required is the best way to pay off your student loans faster. If you have more than one loan payment, and can only afford to pay more on one loan, choose the one that has the highest interest rate.

Your student loan should already be included in your budget. You can budget for higher than your minimum payment, or you could use any money you have leftover at the end of the month as an extra loan payment. You can even implement both methods. Either way, paying more than required is a great way to pay student loans off faster.

Tip: Be aware of how extra payments are applied to your account. You want to make sure that the additional amount you are paying is applied to the principal amount rather than to interest.

Decrease your expenses.

Any extra money that can be put toward student loans will help you pay them off faster. “But, what if I don’t have extra money?” you ask. Take a look at your expenses and see if there is anything you can do to slash some. Ask your cable company about a cheaper package, cancel your monthly subscriptions to Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, etc. Get a quote from other insurance companies or change your habits and eat out less often and make coffee at home.

Put birthday money, tax return funds, raises and any other extra cash toward your student loans.

If you receive money in addition to your normal paycheck, avoid spending it – no matter how much you want that new computer, those new shoes, or to go to that concert. It will be worth it as you get closer to paying off your student loans. Your future self will thank you!

Enroll in auto-pay.

When you enroll in auto-pay, your student loan payment is automatically taken from your account on the due date. Most lenders offer an interest rate decrease for people enrolled in this service. Not only does this eliminate the hassle of having to remember to manually make your payment, but it decreases the amount of interest you pay over time, allowing you to pay off your loans faster. Visit your lender’s website for information or contact them directly.

Avoid repayment programs and other repayment plans.

Although these programs come with a lower monthly payment, which always sounds amazing, they also come with longer terms, which means more interest paid over time. If you are really, really struggling to make those monthly payments on time and in full, these options might work for you. But, if you can make the payments, still pay your other bills and have money left over to enjoy yourself, don’t be fooled by the thought of a low payment.

Refinance or consolidate your loans.

Putting extra money toward your student loans is a sure way to pay them off early, but if you want to make an even more drastic change, look into your refinancing and consolidation options. You can possibly refinance your loans to get a lower interest rate and term length. If you have multiple student loans, you can consolidate them so they combine together, giving you only one loan payment.

Get a side job.

If your schedule allows it, a second job can help you reach your goals in paying off your student loans early. All money made with your second job can be put toward your student loans. While this may be easier said than done, it’s definitely helpful.

The sooner you get rid of that student loan payment, you’ll have more room in your monthly budget and more freedom with your finances – so get started as quickly as possible!

Article Source: Amanda Bridge for The Money Mill