5 Money Moves to Make Before 2017

New year is loading. Holiday concept on a blue background with snow and snowflakes. New year template vector illustration.

Here comes the end of the year. Are you ready financially?

1. Review Your Retirement Contributions

Are you putting enough away for retirement? Now is a good time to check into that. Make sure you put aside what you can for your future. A tax-advantaged retirement account is a great way to go because it increases the efficiency of your earnings, and might even get you a bit of a break on your tax bill now.

Questions about retirement contributions or investments? 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!*

2. Spend from Your Flex Account

If you have a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), you need to use your money or you’ll lose it. This is a great benefit, and comes with a tax deduction, but if you still have money left over and don’t use it for a qualified expense within a certain amount of time, you could lose the money.

Look at your FSA and see if you can spend that money on something that qualifies, like eye exams, new glasses, some medical procedure you’ve been waiting on, or dental work.

3. Harvest Your Investment Losses

You shouldn’t sell an investment lightly. However, you can take advantage of the losses in your portfolio. Consider selling some of the losing investments and deducting the loss before year end. Your investment losses reduce your income by the amount you lose, which helps, especially if you made more money this year than last year. Just be careful to avoid getting caught in the “wash sale rule” from the IRS. If you sell a losing investment, you can’t buy it back within 30 days.

4. Donate to Charity

This is a great time of year to donate to charity. Clean out the house and donate items in good condition to a charity thrift shop. This way you can claim a deduction for charitable goods while also helping a worthy cause. You can also get a tax deduction for cash donations you make. Just be sure to get a receipt from the organization so you have it for your tax records, and be sure to itemize on Schedule A of the federal tax return.

5. Review Your Budget

Now is the time for a budget review. How are things going with your budget? Are you on the right track? What’s worked well this year? What hasn’t? Be honest about how the budget is working. You might need to tweak the specifics before the new year so that you are ready to hit the ground running in 2017.

*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.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com, http://moneyning.com/misc/5-money-moves-to-make-before-year-end/

5 Tips to Lowering Your Energy Bill this Winter

Close up of home heating thermostat with partial utility bill on wall.

It may officially be a couple weeks away, but winter is coming – and with it come extra expenses on keeping warm. A large part of the country will be experiencing lower than average temperatures this winter, but we can all save money by taking the time now to prepare and weatherproof. Consider these tips to maximize your savings before the snow starts falling.

Keep it cool.

When you get home, leave the sweater on, grab a blanket or light a fire in the fireplace to save some real money. You can save 5% on heating costs for every degree you drop your thermostat in the 60-70 degree range, according to the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center.

Check for drafts.

The best way to lower your winter energy bill is to reseal your home to keep the cold out. By insulating windows, installing window coverings, and sealing drafts around chimneys, cabinets, and closets, you can find the largest return that doesn’t require any lifestyle changes.

Have your furnace inspected.

The last thing you want is for your heat to go out in the middle of the winter, though arguably you would save quite a bit of money. In most markets you can spend around $100 to get your system inspected by a professional who can identify any duct leaks, intake blockages, mechanical failings, electronic failings and more.

Harness the sun.

At night you should have your blinds and thick curtains closed to prevent the escape of heat, but in the mornings open them up to let in as much sunlight and free, natural heat as possible.

Watch your increased waste.

For most of us, winter means we are spending more time inside. We escape the cold weather with the assistance of our electronics. Though, you should be mindful of all of those idle gadgets as they could be eating up a significant amount of power. The EPA estimates that idle gadgets waste more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, costing consumers $10 billion a year. Make sure you unplug every device that you aren’t actively using to keep the cost low.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com, https://www.cuinsight.com/5-tips-lowering-energy-bill-winter.html

 

5 Smart Financial Moves Before the Year Ends

Three classical shape pawns made of blue glass

When the leaves begin to change colors and the year draws to a close, people think about many things: the football season in full swing, apple picking, maybe even a thought or two about finding your rakes before the leaves start to fall all over your lawn. As the year begins its last act before drawing to a close, here are five things to do to get your finances in top shape for year’s end.

Assess Your Status

Take stock of your overall financial status. Look back on the goals you had for the year; have you met them? Don’t just look at your short-term goals, either. Review your earnings, your long term financial requirements, and your overall level of financial peace. If nothing is adding up, then it might be time to think about making some serious life changes – new job, downsizing, selling assets – to make sure you are meeting all of your financial objectives.

Review your Insurance Coverage

Other than paying your premiums or making claims, you likely don’t think of insurance too often. Now is a good time to review all of your policies and ensure that you are satisfied with your level of coverage. Start with your life insurance policies, and ensure that you have the right coverage for your circumstances. This can change as you age, or get married or divorced. Next, make sure your homeowner’s policy is up to date. Finally, if you have bought or sold any cars over the past year, make certain that you aren’t insuring a car you no longer own – and that you have sufficient coverage on your new car.

Save for the Holidays

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and with them come a plethora of expenses. Holiday gifts, food, travel, and vacation expenses require significant cash outlays at the end of the year; the average household spends nearly $900 on Christmas alone. Start saving money as the nights get colder, so that you are ready when the holiday season rolls around.

Get Ready for Winter

Now is the time to get ready for winter. Ensuring your house is winterized – basement, walls, and attic insulated, windows sealed, everything caulked – can provide substantial savings before the first snow falls. Changing furnace filters will help optimize your home heating and reduce costs, and running your ceiling fans in reverse (clockwise) will make your home heat go a little bit further. The savings from all of these moves add up, and will equate to less money going to utility companies this winter.

Max Out Your Retirement Account

You have until April of next year to maximize the yearly limit on retirement account contributions, but don’t delay making that deposit anymore. Your tax-deferred IRA, 401k, or other savings plan are your post-work future. Verify how much you have contributed thus far for the year, and work to maximize your contribution before the deadline.

Questions about retirement planning? 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!*

Fall is the one of the best times of the year to get your finances in order, and to close out the year on a high note. Do a good assessment of your overall financial status; determine what you are doing well, where you are falling short, and decide whether or not major changes are in order. Take time to review all of your life insurance policies, and ensure you have adequate coverage. Winterize your house for savings from energy efficiency, and strive to maximize your retirement account contributions. If you do all of these things, you will close out the fall with peace of mind, and will be ready for whatever the next year holds.

*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.

Article Source: Will Lipovsky for Moneyning.com, http://moneyning.com/money-tips/5-smart-financial-moves-for-fall/

 

How to be a Savvy Online Shopper

Mobile phone in hand

We all know that online shopping is extraordinarily convenient, and with the holiday season coming up – you might be thinking about it more and more. Whether you’re purchasing a gift for a family member, friend or just treating yourself – you can buy virtually anything from your computer or mobile device. The question is though, are you a savvy online shopper? Below are a few helpful tips for getting the most out of your money while making those mobile purchases.

Subscribe to email alerts – When you visit an online shop, you will often be asked to sign up for their recurring emails. Although no one likes a clogged inbox, take advantage of the discount offered for subscribing (which usually ranges from 10-20%). Email blasts are required to include an unsubscribe option, therefore after you use the promo code provided you can remove yourself from the list if you want to.

Check out online consignment stores and private shopping clubs – Groups like Zulily and Gilt Groupe are free to join and are great resources for finding high-end items at discounted prices. Local consignment stores often have an online shopping option, download the Poshmark app on your mobile phone to buy and sell items, and Facebook also supports many private shopping groups selling high-end items in your local area.

Download retailers’ mobile apps – Companies like 1-800 Contacts will offer customers a percentage off for downloading and ordering through their mobile app. Even a small amount off your purchase can help, and like the email blasts – after you take advantage of the offer provided you can always delete the app from your device if you decide to.

Discover a cheaper way to wander – Don’t automatically assume you can’t travel just because you are on a tight budget. Sign up for alerts from Airfarewatchdog. When you input your ideal travel destination, they will notify you of the best deals available. VRBO and Airbnb have a large selection of affordable accommodations for your next trip, and Living Social offers daily cost-effective updates on unique events, excursions, and experiences in your local area.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com, https://www.cuinsight.com/savvy-online-shopper.html  

First Financial Rewards Local Kids for Love of Reading

Press Release

grand-prize-winner-catherine-p-hw

FREEHOLD, N.J. – First Financial Federal Credit Union has announced the grand prize winner of the 2016 Reader Rewards Summer Reading Contest. Catherine P. from Howell, N.J., was selected among 41 participating children who committed to stay on track academically with summer reading.

The 2016 Reader Rewards Contest was open to children up to 18 years of age, whereby First Financial would give each participant $1 per book read, up to 10 books. For each book read, the children also earned one entry into prize drawings that included school supply baskets and the grand prize, an Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet. Though the credit union paid up to $10 per student for books read over the summer, the amount of entries into the prize drawings was unlimited.

“Our credit union puts a high priority on education, that’s how First Financial began 80 years ago – with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park,” stated Issa Stephan, President/CEO of First Financial. “It’s wonderful to see some of our youngest First Financial members taking pride in their education to further learn and read throughout the summer, and we wish all our summer reading contest participants a successful school year.”

runner-up-baskets-4

This year saw the highest number of summer readers to date, and First Financial awarded $284 to students who were committed to return to school ready to continue learning. In addition to Catherine P., other school supply basket winners included Alexis F. of Barnegat, Mackenzie M. of Howell, Allison J. of Jackson, and Micah R. of Wall Township.

Congrats to all our 2016 Summer Readers!

Pictured at top: Grand Prize Winner Catherine P. with her Kindle Fire Tablet.

Pictured at bottom: Four age group runner up basket winners Alexis F., Mackenzie M., Micah R., and Allison J. 

# # #

About First Financial Federal Credit Union

First Financial Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative whose goal is to provide the highest level of quality products and personalized services while maintaining financial integrity and stability.  Our vision is to be a long-term financial partner with our Members. While First Financial has a highly trained, professional staff using the latest technology, we also pride ourselves on our personal touch. Unlike huge banking conglomerates, policy setting and overall strategic direction of First Financial are overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of credit union members. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA. For more information on First Financial, visit www.firstffcu.com.

 

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this November 2016

Family sitting on grass with pumpkins smilingIt’s time to kick off the start of the holiday season and there are so many great things to do with family and friends in the upcoming weeks to celebrate this special time of year! Just because it’s getting cold, it doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of “warming” outdoor activities to enjoy. Check out our list of free or inexpensive activities happening this month in a town near you. We hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

November 4 – 6: Allaire Village Auxiliary Stocking Stuffer Sale (Wall). You’ll find lots of stocking stuffer gifts ranging from ornaments to scarves, decorations, and everything in between. There is also a hand-sewn raffle quilt! The Stocking Stuffer sale is Friday November 4th and Saturday November 5th from 10am to 3pm, as well as Sunday November 6th from 12pm to 3pm. For more information call 732.919.3500.

November 5, 6, 8: Holiday in the Park at Six Flags (Jackson). This winter, the Santa tracker will lead right to Six Flags Great Adventure. Millions of glittering lights, dazzling holiday entertainment, delicious seasonal treats, Santa’s village, animals and many popular rides will magically transform the summer thrill destination into a winter wonderland. Cost is included with Season Pass or active membership. For more details call 732-928-2000 extension 2831 or click here.

November 6: Don’t forget to turn your clocks back – Daylight Savings Time ends!

November 11: Veterans Day Ceremony (Holmdel). 11am Veterans Day Memorial Ceremony at Exit 116 off the Garden State Parkway. For more details call 732.335.0033 extension 100.

November 11 – 20: A Christmas Story at Count Basie Theater (Red Bank). Come see the new musical version of the classic movie come to the stage for the holiday season. The story takes place in the 1940s in Indiana and focuses on a child named Ralphie, a daydreamer who spends his days counting down to Christmas. He wants a Red Ryder BB Gun, but as his parents and teachers warn him, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” All of the movie’s best-loved moments are here, and tickets range from $22-$32 – you won’t want to miss it! Call 732.842.9000 or visit http://www.countbasietheatre.org/events.asp to purchase tickets.

November 12: Monmouth County Park System’s Fall Craft Show (Tinton Falls). The event takes place from 9am-2pm at the Ft. Monmouth Recreation Center. See over 50 local crafters – the perfect event to get a head start on your holiday shopping! You’ll find soap, jewelry, home décor, candles, ornaments and more.  Call 732.542.1642 extension 31 for more information.

November 12 & 13: Laurita Winery’s Fire Pits, Food Trucks, and Fireworks (New Egypt). Don’t miss one of the best and most fun events in New Jersey – last one of 2016! Fun for the whole family. Check out LauritaWinery.com to uncork all the fun or call 609.758.8000. Cost is $8 at door and ages 12 and under free, the winery opens at 11am both days.

November 20: Six Flags 2nd Annual Santa Run 5K (Jackson). You don’t want to miss this one! Join at the North Pole for Six Flags Great Adventure’s Santa Run 5K. Registration includes admission into the park! The race also features the “Little Elves” sprint run for children ages 5-8 and 9-11. There’ll be snow, elves, and a special guest appearance by Santa to start the race. Spectators  – Watch the race at multiple points! Listen to great music, cheer for your favorites and spend the day with your family in the park. The run begins at 8:30am. For more information click here, or call 732-928-2000 extension 2831.

November 25-27: Holiday Wine Trail at JG’s Vineyard (Colts Neck). Relax at the vineyard from 12pm-5pm on a holiday weekend. For details call 908.930.8066.

November 26: Spring Lake’s Christmas Celebration Kickoff – Enjoy hayrides, music, dancers, holiday treats, and the Clayton Livery miniature village. Shops are open until 8 p.m.  For more information click here or call 732.449.0577.

Tree Lighting Ceremonies

November 26: Keyport 5pm, West Front Street Mini Park. Call 732.739.3900 for details.

November 27: Bradley Beach 4pm, Riley Park – Santa arrives at 5pm. Call 732.776.2999 for details.