What College Grads Need to Know About Money

College graduation is a big milestone to feel good about. And as you head out into the world, you’ll be learning new things, facing new challenges, and making big financial decisions. One of the most helpful skills to have as you get older, is being able to manage your money. And luckily, you don’t need a class to learn financial management – you can get familiar with these skills through educational resources like ours! Keep reading for our top money management tips for recent college grads.

Learn how to budget

Budgeting is one of the most important financial skills you can learn. Maintaining a budget can help you be smart about your spending and plan for your financial future. We recommend using the 50/30/20 strategy as a rough guide for how you should spend your money. This means you should aim to spend 50% of your budget on essentials, 20% on savings and investments, and 30% on other remaining expenses.

Calculate your expenses (rent, student loans, utilities, food, transportation, etc.) and variable costs (dining out, vacations, shopping), and make sure your expenses do not exceed your income.

Start saving money

No matter what your financial goals are, opening a savings account is always a good idea. You can start by dedicating a certain amount of your paycheck toward your savings. While it’s recommended to keep 20% of your income for savings and debt repayment, you’ll need to evaluate what works within your budget and when you’ll need the funds. Even if you’re starting small, you’ll be surprised how quickly the account can grow!

Want to open a savings account?* We’re here for you! Contact us or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative today.

Plan for retirement

It may seem too early to start planning for your retirement, but it will make a big difference to start saving right out of college. For example, a 22-year-old who starts investing is going to have nearly twice the amount of money saved by 67 than someone who starts at 32. Most employers offer a retirement plan match program like a 401(k) or 403 (b) that is typically deducted straight from your paycheck. If your employer offers matching contributions like this, make sure to take advantage – since it’s essentially free future savings.

Pay off student loans

According to Forbes, there’s currently $1.75 trillion in total student loan debt with an average of $28,950 owed per borrower. And while graduating and starting your career may be exciting, paying back student loans can be daunting – to say the least. When it comes to paying off your student loans, you should take the time to look at your budget and determine how much you can afford to pay toward your debt payments. It’s recommended to start paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first, and then focusing on the debt with lesser amounts or lower rates like federal student loans. There are sure to be plenty of repayment options to choose from based on your current income and budget.

Don’t forget about your credit score

Having a decent credit score is going to be very important throughout your life. A credit score essentially is a rating that financial institutions use to determine how likely you are to pay off your debt. Whether you’re renting an apartment, opening a new credit card, or buying a car – your credit score will play a factor in what you’ll be able to obtain.

A credit score is determined by:

  • Your payment history
  • Your amounts owed
  • The length of your credit history
  • New credit
  • The variety of credit products you have

As a new college graduate, understanding financial management can feel overwhelming – but you’re not alone. Our financial experts can give you advice based on your situation. Contact us to get started, or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today!

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership before opening any other account/loan. 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. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.




Tips for Saving on Transportation Costs

As gas prices continue to rise, drivers are rethinking their typical routines and spending habits. It’s not just gas that gets expensive, it’s the maintenance costs and insurance too. Simply put, having a car adds up. And according to AAA, the average cost of car ownership is about $10,000 per year.

While owning a car is essential for many, there are always ways to save on transportation costs. Here are some tips to help cut costs.

Walk or bike when you can

The most eco-friendly way to save money on gas is by not driving when possible. Sure, this may not be ideal for everyone – especially if you live in a rural area. But if you’re able to walk or bike to a destination, you can cut back on gas while also choosing a healthier form of transportation. Talk about a win-win!

Use public transportation

Public transportation is a great way to save money on gas, parking, and maintenance costs. Plus, it’s an accessible option for those who may not be able to easily walk or bike around. Monmouth County has plenty of transportation options for community residents including busses, ferries, and trains. There are also plenty of bus routes for those who reside in Ocean County.


Live near a co-worker? Why not commute to work together? Carpooling with friends, colleagues, or family members is another great way to save on gas plus add a little bit of extra socialization to your day.

Compare insurance costs

It’s time to re-evaluate your auto insurance plan. Insurance rates can vary depending on your credit score, driving history, and mileage. So, if anything changed or it’s been a while since you’ve secured a new plan, it’s best to compare rates. Don’t know where to begin? Talk to your local broker to see what your options are.

Keep up on maintenance

Having routine maintenance done on your vehicle can help prevent future issues and save on repairs. Under-inflated tires, for example, will wear them down even faster and hurt your gas mileage. Even getting your car washed regularly will prevent rust and residue that can damage the finish of your vehicle. (Pro tip: Try washing your car by hand to spare an extra $15-$20!)

Avoid speeding

Sure, watching your speed will prevent you from getting a pricey speeding ticket, but did you know it will also help your gas mileage? Speeding decreases the fuel economy of your car, meaning you’ll get fewer miles to the gallon than if you slowed down a little bit. All the more reason to go the speed limit!

Looking for a new or pre-owned vehicle? Our auto loans have great low rates, so you can get a new ride AND lower your monthly payments too! Visit a First Financial branch or contact the Loan Department to speak with a representative today.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms and conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. 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. A First Financial membership is required to obtain an 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 to establish membership prior to opening any other account/loan.


Spring 2022 Newsletter

We hope you are having a wonderful Spring Season! While you’re gearing up for a beautiful week ahead – we thought you might enjoy our second member quarterly First Edition Newsletter of the year.

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 branches.

The Spring Newsletter features the following articles:

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this May 2022

The unofficial start to Summer is almost here at the end of this month! Be sure to check out these upcoming dates for some free or inexpensive events happening in a town near you.

May 7:

Spring Fling Arts & Crafts Show (Ocean Grove) will take place at Auditorium Square Park (Main Ave. to Pilgrim Pathway) from 10am to 4pm, rain or shine. There will be a wide variety of crafters, artisans and makers. Enjoy live music from Jo Wymer and Chuck Lambert. Don’t miss this day of fun, food, and festivities! Admission is free. Learn more at https://www.oceangrovenj.com/ or call 732.774.1391.

Creative Arts Festival (Lincroft) will begin at 10am and end at 4pm at Thompson Park, and will be held rain or shine. See the works of local artists and fine crafters from all mediums including pottery, jewelry, photography and painting. There will also be live music and food vendors. Admission and parking are free. Learn more here, or call 732.842.4000.

May Day Spring Festival (Seaside Park) will take place from 10am-3pm at Island Beach State Park Swimming Area 1. There will be food trucks, music, family fun, craft and pet vendors. This event will be held rain or shine, there is an $8 suggested donation to attend. Dogs on a leash are invited to attend as well. Learn more here.

Toms River Food Fest will begin at noon and go until 8pm at 33 Washington St in Downtown Toms River. There will be lots of gourmet food trucks, live music, and arts & crafts vendors. Learn more by calling 732.341.8415 or click here.

May 13: Downtown Night Out (Toms River) kicks off again every Friday and Saturday night for the summer, after two long years! Don’t miss the great restaurants and businesses of Downtown Toms River open for outdoor dining, shopping, music and fun on Washington St. Call 732.341.8738 or click here for more information.

May 14:

Vintage Car Show (Ocean Grove) from 10am to 3pm. There will be live music, food, and more! Canned goods or a $5 donation is suggested for car admission. Canned goods will be donated to St. Paul’s Food Pantry. Get more information at https://www.oceangrovenj.com/ or by calling 732.774.1391.

4th Annual Brew by the Bay (Highlands) from 12-5pm. Hosted by the Seafarer (1 Atlantic Ave.), the event and tastings take place on the picturesque waterfront. Tickets are $35 per person, and include seven 4 oz. tastings and a commemorative pilsner cup. There will be live music, fire pits, and delicious local smoke cuisine. Ages 21 and older to participate. Find out more here, and purchase tickets online. You may also call 732.291.4713 for more details.

May 15: BBQ Jamfest (Pt. Pleasant) from 12-4pm at 710 Arnold Ave. There will be an outdoor cookout with live music, BBQ brisket and ribs, prizes, and cornhole. Tickets are $10 each in advance, or $12 at the door. There is a rain date of 5/22. Learn more here and purchase tickets online. You may also call 732.899.2424.

May 19: The Colts Neck Community Band will host a free concert at Colts Neck High School (59 Five Points Rd.) from 7:30-9:30pm. The concert will include various styles of music and will feature local singer Cheryl Parker. The concert will be open to the public, and all ages are welcome. Find out more at https://coltsneckband.org/

May 21:

Sean Strong Dine to Donate Fundraiser (Farmingdale) will be held at Woody’s Roadside Tavern to benefit NJ State Trooper Sean Acker from 12-5pm. Come and enjoy food and drinks, and there will also be a DJ and a gift auction – all for a great cause. Email seanstrong6889@gmail.com for more information or for sponsorship opportunities.

World Diversity Day Children’s Festival (Freehold) will take place from 1-4pm. This is a free event and will be held at Lake Topenemus Park, 251 Pond Rd. There will be live performances and hands on activities including story telling, sing-a-longs, folk dancing, crafts, book giveaways and more. 5 to 10-year-olds and their families are invited to broaden their horizons, learn acceptance and have a great time! Learn more here.

May 29:

The 21st Annual Seaport Craft Show (Highlands) will take place from 10am to 5pm at Huddy Park on Bay Ave. Admission is free. Come experience a delightful collection of various handmade crafts from more than 60 crafters and artisans. There will also be live entertainment, and lots of shopping for unique gifts, art, and jewelry. Find out more here or call 732.291.4713.

Viking Village Arts & Crafts Show (Barnegat Light) will take place from 10am to 4:30pm at the Historic Viking Village at 19th and Bayview Ave. There will be over 70 vendors, fine arts, photography, ceramics, wood crafts, clothing, jewelry and accessories. Admission is free and there is plenty of parking. The event will be held rain or shine. Learn more here or call 609.361.8039.

May 30: The Freehold Memorial Day Parade will begin at 10am in Freehold Borough at 1 East Main St. This parade is the oldest and largest Memorial Day parade in Western Monmouth County, with an average of more than 70 units participating each year. The parade features many military units, veterans groups, bands, fire departments, EMS squads, youth groups, custom designed floats and civilian units.​ Learn more at https://downtownfreehold.com/ or call 732.462.4580.

We hope you have a great May, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms!

What to Do With Your Tax Refund

Did you recently receive your tax refund, but don’t know what to do with the extra money? While there are many options for spending your tax return, some may be better than others based on your circumstances. Sure, you might be tempted to use it on a shopping spree or extravagant vacation, but spending the money strategically will be more beneficial in the long run. Here are some useful ways to spend your tax refund that you might not have thought of.

Put it into your savings

No matter what your financial and personal goals are, having a savings account* is essential. If you’re already transferring a certain amount of money per paycheck to your savings, adding in your full tax refund can provide an extra boost to what you’ve already built. However, if you don’t already have a savings account, you can always use your tax return as a reason to start saving and investing in your future goals.

Start an emergency fund

Anything can happen and having an emergency fund can be a lifesaver when the unexpected occurs. Whether it’s an expensive vet bill, hospital stay, or a car repair – emergencies add up. The only way to truly be prepared is by saving money. And while you may already have savings, a separate emergency fund can prevent you from having to take from a different account meant for another expense.

Pay off your debt

Don’t let debt loom over you. Use your tax refund to pay down the money owed on your credit card or student loans. Paying off a large chunk of debt at once, can help lower your monthly credit card payment while also paying it down faster. While your full refund may not be enough to pay back everything, you can use it as an opportunity to start building a realistic repayment plan that works within your budget.

Make home improvements

Living in a home means there is usually maintenance, various fixes, and lots of upgrades to budget for. On the plus side, keeping up with these improvements can help lower energy bills and increase the value of your home over time. Replacing old windows, for example – can improve the efficiency of your air conditioning, thus reducing your electric bill during the hot summer months. Remodeling your kitchen or bathroom with new plumbing, appliances, or decor can help potentially also increase the value of your home and make it look more appealing when you’re ready to sell. While these projects can get pricey, using your tax refund – combined with a home improvement loan from us, can help make funding your project more realistic.**

Start your dream business

Maybe you’ve been dreaming of honing your artistic abilities by starting a photography business. Or perhaps you’re hoping to use your love of woodworking to begin crafting and selling furniture. Either way, your tax refund can provide a bit of capital to help get you started. While you don’t have to quit your current job to start profiting off your side business, it’s always recommended you speak with a financial expert (like us!) who can help advise you on which loan products and account offerings you’ll need to kick off your dreams.

Put it back into your community

Is there a cause or charity you’ve been wanting to support? Rather than donating money from your checking account without a plan, use what you’ve received from your tax return. Not only does your charitable donation benefit those in need, but it may also pose potential donation deductions for next year’s taxes. Not to mention it’s a financial decision you can feel good about!

Whether you need financial advice, or you’re looking to open a savings account, or get a loan – we are here to help. Stop in your local branch to speak with a representative today!

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership before opening any other account/loan. 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. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.

 **Available on primary residence only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Improvement Loan and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. Rate will vary based off of applicant’s credit rating. Not all applicants who apply will be approved, subject to underwriting guidelines and credit approval. Lien position and appraisal valuation may affect the maximum loan amount. Not all applicants will qualify for maximum Loan to Value (LTV) ratio. It will be based off of creditworthiness, property type, occupancy, lien position, and loan amount. Rates will be affected by LTV or combined LTV if there is another lien on the property. Loan amounts over $7,500.00 will be required to give First Financial FCU a security interest in their property. Rates will vary based off of lien position and whether the loan is mortgage secured or unsecured. For mortgage secured Home Improvement loans First Financial FCU (FFFCU) will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and are required to be paid back by member to FFFCU.

How to Avoid Banking Scams and Stay Safe Online

Banking scams are more common than you think, especially lately. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 2.1 million fraud reports. Criminals use these types of scams to trick people into giving up their bank account information.

Don’t panic just yet. There are many ways to protect yourself against banking scams and online fraud, and we’re here to help.

What are banking scams?

Banking scams are when fraudsters attempt to access your bank account to take your money or private information. The most common banking scams include:

  • Overpayment scams: When someone sends you a check, asks you to deposit it into your account, and wire part of the money back to them. The check is likely fake, so you’ll end up having to pay your bank the amount of the check, plus what you wired.
  • Unsolicited check fraud: When a scammer sends you an unexpected check, you cash it, and then you’re suddenly authorized for purchases or a loan you didn’t ask for.
  • Automatic withdrawals: When a fraudulent company sets up automatic withdrawals from your account to qualify for a free trial or prize.
  • Phishing: When you receive an email or text asking you to verify your bank account or card number.

How to protect yourself from banking scams

Now that we know what kinds of banking scams are out there, let’s talk about how to prevent them from happening to you. Here are our top tips to follow:

  • Be careful who you cash checks for. Never write a check for someone in exchange for cash, unless you know the person well.
  • Trust your instincts. If something feels off or is too good to be true, it likely is. Always read the fine print with any email or text you receive.
  • Don’t share your personal information. Scammers can easily hack into your account with the right information. Therefore, it’s important to avoid sharing account, Social Security, and credit card information with anyone – unless you know for certain it’s a legitimate request that you initiated with your financial institution.
  • Question unnecessary fees. If you’re sent a prize or job offer that requires an upfront fee, it’s a scam. The same goes for offers from unverified sources that require bank account information to redeem or claim them.
  • Be careful where you send money. This may seem obvious, but do not wire or send money to people or companies you don’t know.

What to do if you’re a victim of a bank scam

If you believe you’re a victim of a scam, contact your bank immediately to stop any unauthorized purchases or withdrawals from your account. You’ll need to report the scam to the proper authorities as well. Your financial institution should most likely offer a way you can file a complaint directly, or be able to provide you with the necessary steps to take. If you received any phishing emails, forward them to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.

At First Financial, we are here to help protect our members from scams and identity theft. If you have any concerns or questions about any of your First Financial accounts, please call member services at 732.312.1500 or visit one of our branches.