Financial Steps to Take After a Divorce

Going through a divorce not only takes an emotional toll, but can also leave a strain on your finances. Between legal fees and income changes – there’s a lot to adapt to, plan for, and consider. After updating your insurance and legal documents, there are financial steps to take after a divorce to maintain your independence and security. Here’s what we recommend, if this is something you are going through and are trying to best prepare to embark on your next journey in life.

Close your joint accounts

You may have already done this, but if not – be sure to immediately close all your joint accounts. Leaving unused accounts open can lead to fees. And even worse, sharing an account with an ex-spouse leaves the opportunity open for racking up a bill and potentially leaving you responsible for it. Leaving your joint account open is not worth the risk of potentially hurting your credit score and financial health.

Open new accounts

After a divorce, it’s time to start fresh. That means opening a new credit card, checking, and savings account in your name exclusively. With new accounts, comes more opportunities to make better financial habits. We recommend taking this time to consolidate any potential credit card debt, and making the commitment to pay your balance on time and in full each month.

At First Financial, we offer credit cards and checking accounts that fit a wide range of financial needs. Whether you’re looking for a card with extra perks, low rates, or one to help build or re-establish your credit, we can help!

Adjust your budget

Mastering budgeting is an empowering journey. As you change from two incomes to one, you’ll want to get a full idea of your expenses and cash flow – especially if you have children. Start by creating a list of essential expenses including housing costs, food, transportation, clothing, internet, cell phone, insurance, and more. Use our fillable PDF budgeting worksheet as a resource. Then add up your monthly income and deduct your expenses. The amount left over should be used toward building your savings and/or for any less essential purchases or entertainment.

Rebuild your savings

Speaking of savings, now is the perfect time to rebuild your emergency fund. Once you have a good idea of your budget and cash flow after covering expenses, you’ll be aware of how much to devote to a savings account. The typical rule of thumb is to dedicate 20% toward savings and future investments, but you’ll also need to be realistic based on your new financial situation.

First Financial not only offers various savings accounts to our members, but we can also advise you on additional financial considerations to make after your divorce.* You can have peace of mind knowing our team is putting your financial needs first, no matter what financial situation you might be going through. Contact us to get started, or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today.

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

*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 Discussing Finances in Your Relationship

You’ve probably never heard your partner say, “let’s talk spreadsheets.” However, all couples have to broach the money conversation at some point in their relationship. Talking about finances with your partner is never an easy conversation, but it should be done as frequently as possible – especially if you’re living together, getting married, or starting a family.

According to a recent study, couples who talk about money regularly are happier in their relationships than those who discuss it less frequently. Overall, money plays a big role in relationship problems – which can lead to breakups or divorce if not managed the right way.

The good news is that talking about money can make your relationship stronger and even help you get closer to your partner.

When to start talking about finances with your partner

There’s no cut-and-dry answer for when to tackle the money conversation, but you should at least have brought it up before the relationship turns serious. Before you move in together – you’ll need to understand what your partner earns, how much they can contribute to the household, and what their other expenses look like. Before you get married, you’ll want to know about your partner’s debt and what their credit score looks like. This knowledge can help build equity in relationships. Plus, their financial status will impact you should you both wish to obtain a loan for a bigger purchase down the road.

Start small

Don’t start your first date by asking, “how much do you make?” Instead, trickle in financial topics by asking them about their goals in life. This could be anything from, “What’s your dream retirement age?” to “Where do you see yourself living in the next ten years?”

Experts recommend asking “what if” questions to not only learn about their financial priorities but also their values. Some icebreakers could include, “If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?” and “If you had to choose between a high-paying job with high stress or a low-paying job that you love, what would you pick?”

The more you talk about finances in this way, the easier it will be to talk about their financial situation over time.

Be understanding

Everyone comes from different backgrounds, values, and financial limitations. If your partner’s parents didn’t teach them effective money management skills, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn. Talking money makes people vulnerable, so it’s important to listen and be sympathetic too. Responding with anger will cause your partner to not feel safe having this type of conversation with you, leading to a lack of trust and transparency.

You also don’t want to just bring the conversation up out of nowhere, give your partner some advanced notice. A great example of this is simply saying, “I’m trying to get better about budgeting and want to talk about finances more regularly. Could we plan to talk about it this weekend?” Having a conversation goal in mind is even better. If you’re planning a romantic trip together, also plan a budgeting conversation so you can save up for your getaway.

Be consistent

It should be a regular part of your routine to talk about finances. When paying your bills, plan to do a monthly financial check-in with your partner. The goal isn’t to micromanage your partner’s spending habits, but rather to see where you both land on your goals and where you can improve. Over time it will become a regular part of your relationship, and will help make you both feel like you’re on the same team.

If you need some help with budgeting and financial literacy, look no further than the team at First Financial. We can give you recommendations and advice based on your financial situation. Contact us to get started, or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative today!

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

Tips for Stocking Your Pantry to Help Cut Food Costs

Like most Americans, your dining out and grocery bills are probably really adding up lately – as inflation and higher economic costs continue to sky rocket. The USDA reports that food inflation is at a 14 year high, with grocery store shopping and eating out costing consumers about 6% more this year than last.

However, you can work smarter instead of harder to help curb some of your food expenses. Here are some suggestions on how to keep your home pantry stocked with staple items that will last you awhile, save money by cooking and eating meals at home, and add some variety to your diet as well.

Here are some essential non-perishable ingredients to always have on hand at home:

  • Whole grains – Oats, quinoa, rice, muffin mix, tortillas, cereal. Bread and bagels will also have a longer shelf life if refrigerated or frozen and used one by one as needed.
  • Pasta
  • Beans/legumes – Chickpeas, lentils, all types of beans (black, kidney, lima, etc.)
  • Baking ingredients – Flour, sugars, baking powder and soda, vanilla or other flavored extracts.
  • Nuts – Almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Condiments – Mayo, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, hot sauce, honey, BBQ sauce, jarred olives and pickles.
  • Jarred sauces
  • Dried herbs and spices – Pepper, salt, cumin, Italian seasoning, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powder.

There are also some pantry staples that would be a good idea to have on hand in addition to what’s listed above, to whip up a quick and inexpensive meal. These items will also last you a decent amount of time unopened in your pantry as well:

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Peanut/almond butters
  • Coconut milk
  • Broths/stocks
  • Canned corn
  • Canned tuna and chicken
  • Jarred salsa
  • Capers
  • Raisins and dried cranberries
  • Maple syrup

You may be asking – what can you make with some of these pantry ingredients? To name a few ideas to start, think quesadillas, homemade hummus, pasta with sauce, granola bars, teriyaki sauce to go over rice or chicken, and pancakes. All of these are simple to make, and will use ingredients you already have at home.

Here are also some food ideas to store in your freezer to have on hand:

  • Frozen vegetables like spinach, peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
  • Frozen berries to make smoothies or smoothie bowls
  • Chicken tenders
  • Ground beef
  • Burgers, hotdogs or veggie patties

Here are some food staples to keep in your refrigerator that will last a little longer than other more perishable foods:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Nut milks (Almond milk will last much longer than regular milk).
  • Cheeses (Cream cheese, parmesan cheese, cheddar, shredded mozzarella).
  • Yogurt

Another idea that always goes over well (especially if you have kids) is breakfast for dinner, using many of the ingredients listed in this blog post. This is an easy, inexpensive, and fun way to make an at home meal a special treat!

If you follow the above tips and keep your pantry stocked, you’ll definitely see some savings on your grocery bill over time and not have to go to the store as often. Not to mention, it’s typically healthier to eat at home too. You can even make it a fun household activity and spend quality time together, by giving each person a job in the kitchen to help put together a great family meal.

In the end – you’ll be saving on food costs, spending time together, and eating a delicious meal. You really can’t put a price tag on that!

Article Source: The Penny Hoarder

How to Finance Your Home Improvement Project

Whether you’re preparing to sell or are just due for an upgrade, renovating your home can help increase its value over time and keep it up to date. Financing a home improvement project, however, takes a lot of planning and consideration. Thinking ahead will save you headaches in the future, so make sure to consider these options before you start your next renovation endeavor.

Save, save, save

The safest option for financing your home improvement project is to save as much money as you can. First, determine a ballpark range of how much the project could cost total, and then make a plan to start saving. While it will take time to build up savings, you won’t have to worry about paying back a large sum of money later. So, if you’re not in a rush to get started – building your savings may be the best option.

If you want to open a savings account for your renovation project, we’re here to help!* Contact us or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative.

Consider your loan options

There are a variety of loan options out there to assist in financing your remodeling project. Here are a few to consider, all of which are available here at First Financial!

  • Home improvement loans: This type of loan is an unsecured personal loan that doesn’t need to use your home as collateral to qualify. Lenders will use your credit score to determine your interest rate and qualifications.**
  • Home equity loans: Similar to a home improvement loan, home equity loans are paid out in a lump sum that you can repay overtime in regular fixed monthly payments.***
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): A HELOC is a secure loan backed by your home allowing you to qualify for lower interest rates. Our HELOCs have a maximum borrow amount of $75,000 and an LTV of up to 70%, and allow you to advance from your approved credit line as you need it. ++

Use a credit card

For smaller home improvements, credit cards with a lower interest rate may be a good option, especially if you can find a card with added perks. At First Financial, we offer 4 credit card options that each have benefits like a 10-day grace period and no annual fees.+ Our Visa Platinum and Signature Cash Plus cards, for example – offer UChoose Rewards on all purchases that are redeemable for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and cash back.

If you’re still unsure what would be the best route for financing your home improvement project, you can rest assured knowing our financial experts are happy to give you advice based on your situation. Contact us to get started, or stop in to 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.

 ***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 the borrower(s) will be required to pay back closing costs in full to FFFCU. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Equity Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See FFFCU for details or visit firstffcu.com for all current rates. Rates for financing up to 80% of Appraised Value less other Mortgages.

 +APR varies from 11.15% to 18% for the Visa Simply First Platinum Card and from 13.15% to 18% for the Visa Signature Cash Plus, Visa Platinum Cash Plus and Visa First Step Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases 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: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. 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.

++ LTV= Loan to Value Ratio. Rates will vary with the market based on Prime Rate and may change quarterly. Subject to credit approval. Available on primary or secondary homes only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a home equity line of credit, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to underwriting guidelines. See credit union for details. 

Tips for Improving Your Financial Literacy

April is Financial Literacy Month, so we’re sharing our top tips for improving your financial wellness. Whether you’re new to managing a budget or are looking to save for a big future purchase, these tips will help you achieve your goals while maintaining a reasonable financial balance.

What is financial literacy?

Financial literacy refers to the knowledge and use of financial management skills, including budgeting, investing, saving, etc. By having an understanding of finances, you’ll be able to make better financial decisions. Achieving financial literacy is a lifelong process that requires continuous learning and management, and we’re here to help!

Here are our best tips for improving your financial literacy.

Learn how to budget

Don’t let the idea of creating a budget scare you. If anything, successfully building and maintaining a budget can be empowering. Start by creating a list of essential expenses including housing costs, food, transportation, clothing, internet, cell phone, insurance, and more. Then, write down how much you spend on each. From there, you’ll need to add up your monthly income and deduct your expenses. The amount leftover should be used toward building your savings and/or for any less essential purchases.

Improve your credit score

Maintaining a good credit score is an important part of your financial future. Without a good score, you’ll have difficulty securing a loan or mortgage down the line. Here’s what you can do over time to better your credit:

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Pay off or pay down your credit cards
  • Don’t close any open credit cards, but slow down opening new credit card accounts
  • Contact a financial expert – like us!

Open a savings account

Whether you need an emergency fund, money for retirement, or to pay a large expense – having a savings account is essential. 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 into your local branch to speak with a representative today.

Subscribe to financial newsletters

Stopping at the library and picking up some financial literature might not be everyone’s cup of tea. So, starting with digestible, yet informative articles is ideal. That’s why we recommend subscribing to newsletters (like ours!) with timely resources that cover a wide range of financial topics. The First Financial monthly e-newsletter delivers helpful tools and financial advice right to your inbox, so you can focus on achieving your monetary goals. You can sign up at the bottom of our website homepage, by entering your name and email address.

Talk to a financial professional

If anything, it’s always helpful to speak directly with a financial expert who can give you advice based on your individual 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.

Ways to Avoid Spending Temptations

Do you find yourself buying items you don’t really need, or that weren’t on your list before you went into the store? Avoiding the temptation to buy things is not always easy, especially since as consumers we are often surrounded by items to purchase. What’s the best way to stop spending money? Know what triggers your impulse to spend.

Here are also some more ways to avoid the temptation to spend money:

Think about logistics. Before you decide to purchase something, think logistically – how will you use it? If you’re buying something that you’ll probably only use one day a year, is it really worth it to spend the extra money on it? Or if you’re about to purchase something that you have no storage space for, it might be a better idea to walk right by it.

When possible, use cash. Using a credit card to make purchases makes it almost too easy – especially when it’s an impulse buy. When you can, budget ahead for your purchases and only carry the cash you need to purchase the items on your list. If you only have a set amount in your wallet, you’ll be unable to buy any extra temptations. If you want to spend less – be sure to leave the credit card at home.

If you wouldn’t buy it at full price, don’t buy it on sale either. Just because something is on sale or clearance, doesn’t mean it’s a great deal. Do you really need this item? Is it something you’ve wanted for a long time? If the purchase isn’t something you would have used or bought at full price, buying it on sale is still overpaying and spending money you didn’t need to (for an item you’ll probably never use).

Make a list and stick to it. Before you go into the store, make a list. Planning ahead with a shopping list allows you to know exactly what you need and how much to plan to spend. When you don’t make a list and continue to be tempted by items you see in the store and add them to your shopping cart, it can really blow your budget – to the tune of hundreds in some cases.

Put the 24-hour rule in place. If you see an item that you absolutely have to buy, make a mental note to come back to it 24 hours later. This gives you a full day to really think the purchase through and decide if you actually need the item, and if you truly have the money for it. Also, don’t purchase it on impulse and tell yourself you can always return the item. More than likely, you never will.

Think about the long-term. Before you decide to purchase something, think about how long you’ll keep it for and be realistic. How would you feel about spending hard earned money on something, only to throw it away a few weeks or months later because you truly never needed it? Before you go out and buy a new item, take note of what you may already have at home that can be repurposed. Purchasing something new that just sits in a closet, is a waste of both your time and money.

If you need help creating a financial plan to avoid spending temptations, check out our handy budgeting guide or stop into your local First Financial branch!

Article Source: Moneyning.com