How to Survive Real World Budgeting for the First Time

One of the most exciting times in life is entering the real word as a young adult. Finishing school, getting that first full-time job, and venturing out on your own is always an important milestone. However for many, the excitement wears off pretty quickly and you then get hit with one of the harshest realities of being an adult: managing your own finances.

Why is it so hard? Budgeting and learning how to spend your money wisely for the first time is a challenge for everyone. And you’re bound to make mistakes. To make your transition easier, here are four tips to help you survive budgeting in the real world for the first time:

1. Know Your Take Home Income

When you get your first job, you will get a salary offer. Let’s say you’ll be making $20 an hour or roughly $40,000 annually. Does that mean you’ll be taking home a little over $3,300 a month?

Wrong! When you get your first pay stub, you’ll see that many expenses are deducted from your paycheck, such as state and federal taxes, social security income, and health insurance (just to name a few). This can take up a very large percentage of your gross pay, on average 25%. It’s important to know what your true net or take home income will be so that you can properly budget.

2. Understand All Your Expenses

Living away from your parents for the first time can be a real eye opener. You start realizing how many things you actually need to pay for that you didn’t necessarily think about before. Make sure you really understand what all your expenses will be – from the big items like rent, all the way to the little things like paper towels. If you’re trying to figure out how much to spend on rent, a good rule of thumb is no more than 30% of your gross income.

Also think about your food costs, which will probably be your second biggest expense. If you’ve never had to do grocery shopping before, a good first step is to just hit the grocery store with a list of necessary items you need to buy weekly. Get a gage of how much everything costs so that you can better budget for this in the future. Remember, all the little things add up – so make your budget as detailed as possible.

3. Be Organized, Track Everything

One of the most important things about managing your finances successfully is organization. Once you have that down, you’ll have an accurate snapshot of how you’re spending and what you should cut back on. Many people forget the little things, like a daily cup of coffee, but even a small expense like that can actually add up in the long run.

Make sure you’re keeping track of everything. The easiest way to do so is by starting a spreadsheet where you input your expenses. Tools such as Mint.com are also great to use, because you can integrate it with your bank and credit card accounts to help you track your purchases.

4. Save, Save, Save

Being on your own for the first time is exciting, and you’ll want to do everything and spend on everything. But remember that it’s important to live within your means, because not doing so will get you in financial trouble down the road. Start good financial spending habits now. Have a small budget for discretionary spending, but for the most part: save, save, save.

Start an emergency fund as soon as possible—because you truly never know what can happen in life. It’s also never too early to start thinking about retirement. With the power of compound interest, the earlier you start saving for retirement, that more you’ll see later on when you need it.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com 

3 Good and Bad Reasons for Personal Loans

A credit card is a valuable tool when you need money in a pinch. But if you’ll need a little time to pay it back, it’s probably not the right financial tool for you. Getting a personal loan is a much better idea if you’re borrowing larger amounts of money that you won’t be able to pay back immediately. Here are some good and bad reasons for using personal loans.

Good Reasons

Investing in Your Home: Whether you’ve got an expensive repair that needs to be made, or you just want to redo your kitchen –  spending money on your home doesn’t usually come cheap.  A personal loan will allow you to up the value on your home and provide you with a fixed monthly payment that you can handle.

High Interest Debt: Credit card debt can be hard to get out from under. If you’re dealing with debt on multiple credit cards, you may be in some financial trouble. A personal loan with a fixed monthly payment can be a great option for you if you’re dealing with a mountain of debt that seems impossible to climb. However, you just have to remember to not continue to use your credit cards along with the personal loan, and further get yourself into serious debt.

Starting a Small Business: You’ve been dreaming about opening up your own business. Follow your dreams and make it happen. Startup costs can be expensive, so this is a great reason to get a personal loan.

Bad Reasons

Vacation: If you don’t have the money you need to take a vacation, the last thing you want to do is go into debt just to make it happen. Staycations are a good alternative and can be just as relaxing as a vacation, so save your money and by next summer maybe you’ll be ready to book that trip to the beach.

Investments: No matter how good you think you are at investing, it’s still a little like gambling. There are no guarantees when it comes to investing, so don’t put yourself into debt for something that may just end up putting you even further into the hole.

Wedding: Weddings can be super expensive. If you can afford a pricey wedding, great. But if you don’t have the funds for your dream wedding, do you really want to start off your new life together with a shiny new pile of debt?

Sometimes, for important items we need in life – the money just isn’t there. First Financial is dedicated to providing small personal loans that can help cover the costs of life’s necessary expenses. If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – this may be a great financial solution for you. Learn more and apply online today!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates are subject to change. Maximum loan is $25K and maximum term is 60 months. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a personal loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. See credit union for details.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Ways to Keep Your Medical Expenses in Check

Medical expenses have gone crazy. You don’t have to do the same.

In the United States, healthcare has grown into a $3 trillion industry. That’s $3,000,000,000,000. That’s a lot of zeros—so many that for most of us, the number doesn’t even seem real. But if we break it down to a personal level, that means the average American spends more than $11,000 per year on healthcare costs. If that doesn’t sound troublesome, consider the fact that the annual cost of healthcare for a family of four tops $28,000. With the median household income coming in at $63,000 per year, that means the average U.S. family can wind up spending more than 40% of their annual income on medical-related expenses.

Even with employer-provided health insurance, which covers roughly 56% of the US population, the employee contribution and out-of-pocket deductibles can leave families buried under an avalanche of medical debt. It’s hard to understand how an industry responsible for personal care can seem so unconcerned when it comes to the financial state of its patients. But with a growing number of hospitals being operated as investor-owned, for-profit businesses, return on investment often seems more important than compassionate patient care.

Difficult Times Call for Creative Approaches

As medical bills continue to climb, the corresponding rise in medical collection agencies only perpetuates the healthcare industry’s callous reputation. In a conversation about the cold, impersonal nature of medical collections, Elizabeth Rosenthal, author of An American Sickness, observed, “…to them [collection agencies], a bill is a bill is a bill. They don’t care if it’s for somebody’s heart transplant…or if someone spent a lot more money on a Rolex watch that they couldn’t afford.”

Over the last few years, medical bills have become the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that GoFundMe campaigns have become one of the most popular ways for consumers to cover their medical costs. According to GoFundMe statistics, approximately 250,000 fundraising campaigns are established on the platform every year just to pay for medical expenses. The $650,000 generated by those campaigns points to a significant problem in the healthcare system.

If you’re one of the thousands of Americans struggling to keep your head above water as medical bills flood in, you might feel helpless. And while there are no magic solutions that can make legitimate medical debt disappear, there are a few steps you can take to stay afloat.

3 Ways to Keep Your Medical Expenses in Check

1. Review Your Bill
When hospital or doctor bills show up, it’s natural to skip right to the “Total Due.” This is not necessarily the best way to approach the statement. Glancing at the amount due could leave you feeling helpless, confused, and overwhelmed. Before you send any money, take time to review every line item listed. Due to complex medical billing codes, it’s not uncommon for incorrect or duplicate charges to wind up on the bill. If you notice discrepancies or questionable entries, it is your right as a consumer to ask your insurance company or medical provider for an explanation. The dispute process may be lengthy, but it’s better than paying for medical services you never received.

2. Consider a High-Deductible HSA
If you and your family are in relatively good health, a Health Savings Account (HSA) can be an excellent way to secure medical coverage while keeping your insurance premium under control. Traditionally available through employers, insurance companies, and some financial institutions, HSAs allow you to set aside money from your paycheck to be used specifically for medical expenses. These accounts feature higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans, but they make up for that by allowing account holders to deposit funds on a pre-tax basis, which can provide some savings and stress relief.

3. Create an Emergency Fund
Setting aside $1,000 in a savings account is a smart way to protect yourself against life’s unpredictable twists and turns. Minor illness and occasional doctor’s visits certainly qualify as unexpected expenses, so an emergency fund can help you address sudden medical needs without derailing your budget. If you decide to follow the previous suggestion and secure a high-deductible Health Savings Account, you may want to boost your emergency fund to a level that would cover your deductible. While this adjustment will likely take more work to establish, knowing you’re able to cover your entire deductible in the event of a medical emergency provides enough peace of mind to make it worth the effort.

The steps we’ve outlined may not solve all your problems or eliminate all your medical debt, but they can go a long way toward helping you feel like you have a little more control. If you need a little help in between – check our Financial Helper Loan, small personal loans that can help cover the costs of life’s necessary expenses.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates are subject to change. Maximum loan is $25K and maximum term is 60 months. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a personal loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. See credit union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

Spring 2019 Newsletter

We hope you are enjoying the warmer weather – be sure to take a look at our Spring Quarterly Member Newsletter to see what’s in store over the next few months. 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.

Wishing you a wonderful spring!

6 Easy Ways to Save Money for a Vacation

Don’t have much of a vacation budget this year? Here are several pretty painless ways to score a getaway on a budget this summer.

1. Don’t Forget About Credit Card Rewards Points

Do you have a rewards or cash back credit card? If so, be sure to log in and see if you have racked up any rewards points that can be redeemed on airfare, cash back, or travel related gift cards. Some cards even have perks good for hotel stays and discounts. Don’t let these points go to waste!

2. Set Up Small Automatic Transfers to Savings

If you take a vacation each year, setting up a small automatic transfer from your paycheck into an earmarked savings account is a painless way to build up your vacation fund.  Even if you only transfer $10 per week, you’ll have accumulated $520 in one year.  You probably won’t even notice that $10 transfer — but it will feel great to have an extra $500 or more for your vacation. And if you can transfer more, even better.

3. Cash In Your Change

Do you have any spare change laying around in a jar? Find a local coin cashing machine, and cash in! Then deposit the funds into your vacation savings account.

4. Recycle Scrap Metal or Aluminum

If you have any scrap metal from appliances or items you no longer use, your recycling efforts can really add up. Scrap yards will take a variety of scrap metals. You can turn aluminum, copper, iron, brass, and more into cash that can be deposited into your vacation savings account.

5. Find Some Easy Side Jobs

Know someone you can babysit or pet sit for, complete surveys, fill in at a family member or friend’s small business, craft, repurpose and sell old furniture? Any of these or similar tasks can earn you some extra cash for your vacation savings account. Plus, there’s nothing better than getting paid for something you enjoy doing.

6. Sell Items Online

What’s better than decluttering your home and earning money at the same time? Hold a garage sale or use a selling app like Let Go for household items/furniture you no longer have a need for, sell clothing on apps such as Poshmark or Mercari, and so on. You’ll get some spring cleaning done and make money for your summer vacation!

Article Source: Alexa Mason for Moneyning.com

Don’t Fall Victim to These Phishing Scams

There are a number of unscrupulous types out there, waiting to take your hard earned money. One of the most common ways criminals try and scam you is to “phish” for your information. In these types of scams, you are asked to reveal personal financial information. This information can then be used to commit identity fraud — and can cost you in time and money.

Here are some phishing scams to be aware of:

You made a purchase. It usually involves an email message that claims to be sending you a receipt for a purchase at a major retailer. If you didn’t make that purchase, don’t open the PDF attachment! Even if you did, do not call the number in the document to make a dispute. Instead, look at your card statement independently to verify whether there was a purchase or not. For example, Apple is a common retailer used in this type of scam and if you look closely, the email message doesn’t come from Apple.com.

Lower your credit card interest rate. Who doesn’t want a lower interest rate on their credit cards? This phishing scam involves a phone call, and a recorded message telling you that you qualify for a lower rate. You then press a number, and you are prompted to enter your credit card number.  Hopefully you can see where this is going in terms of identity fraud …

Unlock your bank account. Some people have received phone calls claiming that their bank accounts are locked. If you receive a call like this, you might even be told that there has been some “suspicious activity on your account.” It sounds like your bank has locked down your account on your behalf. All you need to do to unlock your account is give them your account number.  And, unlike a credit card with its fraud protections, there isn’t much you can do if someone decides to drain your bank account. The moral of this story: your actual bank already knows your account number, you will never need to give it to them.

Hotel computer crash. According to Consumer Reports, the Better Business Bureau is reporting on an interesting scam that has cropped up. You receive a call on your hotel phone. The person on the other end claims to be from the front desk. The computer system has crashed, and all the data is gone — including your credit card data. All you have to do is give the information over the phone, and everything will be straightened out. This is a complete scam, and now the scammer has your credit card information to start using.

It is important not to give out personal financial information out unless you can verify the source. Additionally, don’t give out information over the phone when some calls asking for it. Always realize that your bank and credit card issuers won’t ask for your full account number; they already have it! Anyone who asks for your full account number for “security” or “verification” is probably almost always a scammer.

Bottom Line: Be on guard for phishing scams, whether they are perpetrated via email or over the phone. Keep your personal financial information private, and remember to verify information coming from others independently.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com