Keep or Shred: Spring Cleaning for Financial Documents

Along with spring cleaning our closets and homes, it’s also important to take a look at that pile of papers gathering dust in the kitchen drawer or your home office. Are you holding onto financial documents that can be shredded, or should you continue to (carefully) keep those records on hand? Here are four types of financial documents and tips for whether to keep them or shred them.

Credit Card Statements: ATM or deposit receipts can be tossed after the transaction is recorded, but credit card statements should be kept until a payment is made and appears on the next statement. Receipts for anything purchased on your credit card should also be kept until the statement arrives so you can confirm you were charged the appropriate amount.

Student Loans: When you originally took out your student loan you were given a master promissory note. This document shows how you promised to pay your loan and any accrued interest and it should be kept securely until your loan is completely paid off.

Mortgage/Lease: Because many mortgage lenders now allow for electronic payments, most documents associated with your home will be available anytime on their webpage. However, if you have paper copies of your closing documents – you may want to file these away for safe keeping anyway, and to have a hard copy on hand. If you are leasing your residence, transaction histories may not be available online, so hold onto your lease and any record of rent payments made. That way if there is a dispute with your landlord, you will have the necessary detailed documents handy.

Car and Health Insurance: Many insurance companies will send policies via email or will allow you to create an account on their website and access your secure documents at your convenience. If this is the case, there is no need to keep any paper copies that are mailed to you. If there isn’t an electronic copy, file away your policy information until the next year when the new plan information arrives. Life insurance policies are an exception and should be filed away forever.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

Financial Milestones Everyone Needs to Achieve

Everyone has a different life plan and different expenses. No matter what that looks like, make sure you’re checking off these financial milestones.

Start saving for retirement.

It’s very important to start saving early for your retirement. You benefit more from saving early, and the longer you wait, you’ll have a lot less.

Pay off student loans.

Education is getting more and more expensive and the student debt crisis is consistently in the news as a serious problem. Some students have resigned to never paying their debt off and just perpetually rolling them over. Pay them off as soon as you can.

Establish a good credit history.

While you may have missed some payments when you were younger and made some mistakes with your finances, it is important to redeem them. Developing a solid credit history will help with big purchases and shows how responsible you can be with paying your bills.

Invest in more than a retirement plan.

Whether it’s something simple like mutual funds or something more advanced like stocks, it is important to have your money diversified in something beyond a basic savings account.

Maximize employer benefits.

If you work somewhere that provides you with perks, you should be using them to the fullest. Employer match accounts are effectively the closest thing to free money that exists, so the sooner you maximize your benefits, the better.

Have a positive net worth.

This is the moment that everything you earn becomes pure profit. There is nothing more exciting than when assets – liabilities = a positive number.

Buy your first home.

Buying a home is easily one of the largest financial obligations most people will experience, and it may determine your spending habits for the future.

Deciding when to retire.

There are quite a few things to consider when it comes to retirement, and they differ for everyone. Deciding when to collect social security, how much you need in savings, and how you plan to spend are just a few of the things you may need to think about.

If you need advice or help with putting any of these financial milestones in place for your lifestyle – contact First Financial! We can help you purchase a home, create and manage a budget, assist you with improving your credit score, consolidate your debt, and our Investment and Retirement Center can help you retire and invest with peace of mind.* Contact us today to get started.

*$5 in a base savings account is your membership deposit and is required to remain in your base savings account at all times to be a member in good standing. All credit unions require a membership deposit. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth and Ocean County.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

5 Ways to Keep Your Credit Card from Sabotaging Your Finances

Understand the terms of the card.

You shouldn’t apply for a credit card without reading the terms. Evaluate the card based on the fees, interest rates, and possible rewards. The many cards available each fit different consumers. You have a lot of options and choosing the wrong card could threaten your financial health.

Pay in full.

Making only the minimum payment each month increases the amount of time it will take to pay off your debt. That increase in time allows the interest rate to add on to your debt. Always make sure to pay off as much of your balance as you can each month.

Don’t use your card on everyday purchases.

Using you credit card as a substitute for cash is a bad habit that can easily lead you down a path to debt. When you buy food, clothes, or gas, try to use cash or your debit card so you won’t overspend.

Don’t go over your limit.

If you’re getting close to your limit, clearly you are spending too much. The last thing you can afford to do is go over that limit and incur the additional fees that come with it. These situations are avoidable by responsibly monitoring your spending.

Understand how it effects your credit score.

Ideally you should be paying off your debt every month. If you are unable to do that, you have to make sure that you are paying off at least the minimum (but preferably more than the minimum). This will not damage your credit score, but it will not improve it either. If you miss a payment you can do major damage to your credit score. If you look untrustworthy to creditors it’s not beyond reason that the credit card company would lower your limit. It is a vicious cycle that can be easily avoided by paying in full each month.

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards come fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, rewards, and so much more!* Click here to learn about our cards and apply online today.

*APR varies from 11.40% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 13.40% to 18% for the Visa Signature and Secured Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances 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: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. 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.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

4 Money Habits You Should Adopt Today

Piggy bank with yellow sticky notes on wooden background

Make wise credit purchases

A credit card can be a valuable tool, but if used incorrectly, it can create debt that becomes tough to tackle. Only use your credit card for purchases you can pay off each month. Using your card this way is a great way to build a good credit score, just make sure you’re being careful when paying with plastic.

Be on the lookout…

…for savings. It doesn’t matter how big or small the purchase, you can probably find it cheaper somewhere else. Have you checked the competitor’s prices? Looked online? Check out Amazon. They can probably save you a few dollars and have it at your door within 48 hours if you’re taking advantage of Amazon Prime.

Auto schedule your bills

Have you mapped out your monthly bills and their due dates? If you haven’t, now would be a good time to start. Look at the due dates, compare them to your pay schedule and design an auto pay schedule that will keep you from missing any payments. Paying your bills on time is a must to keep that credit score up.

Be frugal

No matter how much money you make, you should try to live below your means. This will give you a chance to save more for the future – where your future self will thank you.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

3 Strategies for Helping You Change Your Financial Habits

goals-and-accomplishmentsAre you hoping to change your financial habits? There isn’t any one-size-fits-all magic approach, but there are different strategies you can try out until you hit on something that works well for you.

Here are three strategies that can help you change your financial habits. Figure out which is likely to work best for you:

1. Try a Spending Detox

If spending is one of your big problems, you can actually break the habit by going on a spending detox. Try to go a month without spending on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. You can retrain yourself to dislike spending and prefer keeping your money.

This approach can even work with your long-term and short-term savings goals. Make sure you automatically contribute to retirement savings or to your travel fund during this time, but avoid spending money on unnecessary household goods, gadgets, or other items that do little more than clutter things up.

You might be surprised at how quickly you adjust to the new normal and develop new habits that are less about spending money.

2. Make Small Changes

Taking a drastic step doesn’t work as well for some people. If this describes you, then consider making incremental changes instead of doing something dramatic. This reduces the pain involved, and can help you make forward progress.

It’s a slower approach, but it can help you ease into your new habits. Savings habits are ideal for making small changes. If you want to get to the point where you are setting aside $350 a month toward retirement, you aren’t likely to be able to sustain that change all at once.

Instead, you can start with a smaller amount. Can you set aside $10 a week? This adds up to $40 a month. Look to take that first small step. Once you free up that money and become comfortable, start looking for ways to free up another $10 a week. It takes a little time, but you will eventually reach your goal.

From freeing up money to pay down debt to putting money toward a family vacation, the start-small approach can work well and help you change the way you manage your money.

3. Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to prepare your finances and change your habits is to plan ahead. Get in the habit of checking in with your finances once a week. Set aside time to look ahead to the bills you will need to pay and other financial realities.

When you plan ahead, you will track your spending better, create budgets, and naturally start to change some of your financial habits in a way that can benefit you in the long term. You’ll also end up saving yourself a ton of time and headache in the long run because you won’t need to deal with putting out all the fires either.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for MoneyNing.com

4 Reasons You Should Live Like You’re Broke

Businessman holding empty pockets

So you can pay off debt faster.

Debt isn’t cheap. Anyone who’s ever had to throw an unexpected bill on a credit card knows this to be true. On the occasion this happens, it can sometimes feel like it takes all year to pay it off. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, this can definitely be the case. If you’re spending less, this will give you a chance to pay down that debt a little faster than you’d normally be able to.

So you can save up for awesome experiences.

We all enjoy buying “stuff.” Most the time that stuff isn’t around years later. Sometimes, we’ll remember that stuff we spent our money on years ago, and it seems ridiculous that we thought so highly of it. The things we typically remember most are people and places, and the experiences that come with it. Next time you want to splurge on an object, put that cash into savings and figure out the best way you can spend it on a memory that can last a lifetime.

So your children won’t treasure material possessions.

If you never start your child on a path of not needing to have the same things as the kid down the street, not only will they not feel like their self-worth is based on objects, but they might grow up appreciating the little things in life. They also may be a little more frugal when they’re spending their own money one day.

So you can simplify life.

Things are nice, but life can be amazing even when it’s simple. Teach your children the value of saving money for the future. Show them there’s more to living than a daily trip to Starbucks or the mall. Eat at home more. Avoid using that credit card. Old-fashioned living can be quite satisfying.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com