5 Financial Reviews for the New Year

2017 year on the sea shore. Element of design.

Happy New Year! 

How did you do financially last year? Did you meet all your goals? Now is the perfect time to take a look at what went your way financially last year so you can repeat it for the new year, and what may not have gone the way you wanted it to – so you can adjust in 2017.

1. Your Spending

What did you spend money on? Did it match your priorities? Did you overspend more than you should have? Were most of your purchases planned, or did you make a lot of impulse purchases?

If you want to get your finances under control, it’s essential to know where your money is going. Personal finance software is a great way to keep track. All you have to do is run a report to see which categories got the most attention from your pocketbook.

2. Your Saving

Did you save enough money in 2016? Review your savings habits. Did you put money toward retirement and do you have an investment portfolio? Do you have an emergency fund? Do you save up for large purchases?

Consider your long-term and short-term savings goals. Make sure you are on track with them. In some cases, it can make sense to cut back on the extra spending in order to divert some of that money toward your savings.

This is also a good place to review your debt load. Pay down your debt as quickly as possible to reduce the amount of interest you pay others.

3. Your Giving

One of the best ways to ensure a well-rounded financial life is to give to others. It seems counter intuitive, but it actually works. Look at how you use your resources to help others. Research charities to make sure your money is going where it should.

4. Your Taxes

Let’s not forget about a review of your tax situation. What deductions and credits are you eligible for? Review your spending and see if you can reduce your tax liability with a couple of well-placed contributions.

Don’t forget to review your pay stub as well. Are you withholding too much from your paycheck? A big tax return is an indication that you are withholding too much and giving the government an interest-free loan. Consider adjusting your withholding to improve your monthly cash flow — and put that money to better use.

5. Your Asset Protection

Are you covered in case of an emergency? Asset protection is a big part of your finances so make sure you are covered. You need to check your health care coverage, as well as your auto and home coverage. Tweak your coverage if necessary to balance cash flow with protection. You don’t want to overpay above what’s necessary.

Once you finish the financial review, you will have a better idea of what you did well in for 2016, and how you can improve for the new year.

Have you done a financial review with First Financial recently? If not, a brand new year is the perfect time to start! Stop into your nearest branch or call 732.312.1500 to get started today.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com

5 Money Problems Most People Deal With

Young girl dreams about their future

Not using debt correctly.

All debt isn’t necessarily bad. Debt is useful when getting your education and even when hard times hit. If you take on too much debt – you could put yourself in a hole that you’ll never be able to dig out of. On the other hand, if you’re afraid of ever having any debt, you may live a boring life. Use credit cards to build a good credit score and never use them for major purchases. If you take on debt, make sure you keep it under control and always remain aware of where you stand.

Overspending.

In an ideal world, we would all save 33% of what we earn. For most of us, this a problem, due to our overspending habits. Whether it be for housing, child care, student loans, or other debt, we’re spending those savings on other things. Try to save wherever you can – even a little bit out of each paycheck is never going to be a waste!

Relying on only one income source.

By counting on our full time job as our only money source, we’re setting ourselves up for problems. Having some side money coming in from a part time or freelance job can also be a nice crutch if something were to go wrong.

Only paying the minimum on credit cards.

When you only pay the minimum on your credit card balance each month, you end up costing yourself a lot of money in interest by carrying a balance. Make sure you don’t spend more than you can pay off at the end of each month. Credit card debt can easily feel like a black hole with no escape.

Not saving.

If you’re not saving, you’re probably not budgeting. Plan ahead and put money aside each month for emergencies. Take a long look at what you’re spending and figure out what you need to put away for retirement. If you don’t have an IRA or other retirement account, you need to enroll ASAP and take advantage of that compounding interest for your future.

First Financial can help you with all of these items!  Visit our website at firstffcu.com, stop into any of our local Monmouth and Ocean County branches, call 732.312.1500, or email info@firstffcu.com.

Article Source: John Pettit for CU Insight, https://www.cuinsight.com/5-money-problems-people-deal.html

How to Financially Finish Out the Year

USA Tax Day, April 15, coffee break with tax return, cash and coffee mug, vertical.

Take stock of your finances

If you set financial goals for this year, it’s time to see how well you did. Even if you didn’t set any goals, it’s important to have a good idea where you stand. Consider how you’re spending, whether or not you’ve been making progress toward shrinking debt and increasing assets. Calculate your end of year net worth as a point to move forward from.

Schedule time for your taxes

Tax professionals’ busy season is about to start, so if you don’t file your taxes yourself, it is not a bad idea to meet with your tax guru right now. The deadline may not be until April, but discussing your income, expenses, and taxes now can help you get your return as soon as possible.

Donate to charity

The holidays are a giving time of year, and the gifts you give now can pay off come tax season. Maximizing your charitable contributions this year can help with favorable tax deductions in just a few more weeks.

Put that bonus or raise to work

Any extra holiday money that you receive should be put toward your financial future. For those lucky enough to get an annual raise, consider putting a large portion of those new funds straight into retirement savings. Those with bonuses can do the same with catch-up accounts or by paying off debt.

Take a look at your investments

The end of the year is a great to time to review what your money has done for you. If you sold off some of your investments this year, consider selling off some of those not doing as well. Not only will this give you an opportunity to start off the new year in the green, it can also reduce your tax burden.

Set goals for the New Year

The year is almost over, for better or worse. The goals you did or didn’t reach for this year are in the past, but can help you write a more effective financial plan for the new year. Don’t wait until the ball drops to start thinking about where you want to be financially a year from now.

Happy New Year!

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

3 Last Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

colorful shopping bags set in woman's hand isolated on white

The holidays are right around the corner, as in the end of this week! Have you finished all your shopping? Here are three last minute tips to keep in mind as you venture out to fight the holiday shopping crowds this last week of shopping.

10-second rule

When deciding on whether you should purchase something, use the 10-second rule. Hold the item in your hands for a solid 10 seconds and think hard about whether you actually need it or whether it is the right choice for your loved one. Sometimes we are in such a rush to get things done we don’t actually stop and put thought into our purchases. So before you check that gift off your list, give it the 10 seconds to make sure it’s worth your money.

Cash only

It has been proven that we tend to spend more when we shop with our credit or debit cards. It is so easy to swipe that card at multiple stores without really tallying up how much you are spending. Often times it’s not until you check your account that you realize the damage you’ve done to your wallet. Use the cash only rule to avoid this spending problem. Decide exactly how much you want to spend before you leave the house. Take only that amount with you to the store and you will save yourself from those unplanned (and often expensive) holiday purchases.

Go it alone

Having friends and family members in your life that support and encourage you is something to be thankful for. But when it comes to shopping – sometimes having your loved ones with you can be a huge mistake. They may have the best intentions when helping you check things off your list, but they may in fact be persuading you to buy things you don’t really need to. So go it alone and stick to your shopping game plan.

Happy Holidays!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

5 Money Moves to Make Before the New Year

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 732.312.1500, email Mary.Laferriere@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