Budget Tips for Planning for Life’s Unexpected Curve Balls

couple-worry-moneyLife doesn’t always go as planned, and many of life’s major events, like getting married, having a baby and buying a home can crowd your savings capability and even throw you into a financial tailspin.

When it comes to making ends meet, retirement is often left out of the savings equation. Eighty-four percent of people say saving for retirement has been undercut by a life event, according to this year’s HSBC Future of Retirement survey of more than 15,000 people. But people react differently when in crunch mode, the survey says, and in some cases, extreme measures are required to cover budget needs. Three tactics improve cash flow in a financial crunch: increase income, decrease expenses or a combination of both.

Time to Downsize?

In reality, you have more control on your spending side, particularly with flexible expenses like travel, entertainment, gifts and food. But if your financial woes seem irreversible, you may have to take a hammer to large expenses like housing.

In fact, 21% of women surveyed say they would downsize, compared to only 14% of men. And 31% of men say they would dip into their retirement savings to cover unexpected expenses.

Though experts concede downsizing may be extremely emotional, it’s more preferable than taking a chunk out of retirement savings. Actually, 29% of respondents say the financial strain of home ownership puts a real crimp in retirement savings.

If you have any questions about the home buying process, feel free to ask us! We know it can be an intimidating process at times, and we’re here for you. To learn more about a 10, 15, or 30 year First Financial Mortgage – click here.*

Rethink Your Lifestyle.

Today’s lifestyle norms may have something to do with one-dimensional thinking. Items once seen as luxuries are now seen as necessities, says Ravi Dhar, director of the Yale Center for Customer Insights.

Plus, what people do with their money has more to do with psychological and emotional issues than it does with crunching the numbers, claims Marcee Yager, a retired certified financial planner. “It’s never just about the money.”

Because non-financial issues often dictate financial decisions and create a domino effect, consumers need to look at both quantitative (intellectual) and qualitative (emotional) issues when making life choices, says Yager. “Without shared thinking, people’s heads start spinning.”

The idea that emotional understanding must be factored into financial decisions has gained very little traction, claims Yager. “Big investment banks don’t tend to make things soft and fuzzy.”

Dhar even questions the effectiveness of some system resources like the many online investment tools available to consumers. Calculators project four, six, or eight million dollar targets for a retirement 30 years into the future. He says the timeframe seems intangible and the goals unattainable.

For consumers looking to navigate their way out or steer clear of the financial weeds, experts offer the following:

Take small steps to wealth. The only way to build up reserves is to do it gradually. Budget a realistic portion of your paycheck to start an emergency fund or return to the basics. “The best thing people raising families can do is go back to the old traditional practice of putting money in an envelope or a cookie jar,” adds Yager.

Be flexible. Think about what’s possible to mitigate a tight financial situation. Baby boomers tend to be fearful of change, particularly of moving to unknown places, says Yager. In fact, new locales both in and outside of U.S. borders can create wonderful opportunities that improve your quality of life.

Keep a minimum three-month reserve for savings. Learn to cut corners, live on less and shop in cheaper places.

Write it down. Take a financial fitness quiz then put your pencil to paper. You need to see the numbers then monitor your day-to-day situation.

First Financial also hosts free credit management and debt reduction seminars throughout the year, so be sure to check our online event calendar or subscribe to receive upcoming seminar alerts on your mobile phone by texting FFSeminar to 69302.**

Turn to professionals. Reviewing your savings situation and retirement potential with a professional financial advisor can help to ensure that all your future requirements are identified.

If you would like to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your brokerage, investments, and/or savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1500 or stop in to see us!***

Click here to view the article source, from FoxBusiness.com.

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A First Financial Mortgage is subject to credit approval. See Credit Union for details. **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.***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. Nondeposit 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.

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What to Consider When Buying a Car for Your Teen

teen-driverParents spend years teaching their children the art of how to talk, how to walk, how to tie their shoes, how to ride a bike, and much, much more. As a parent, you’re overjoyed with each momentous milestone that passes. But with each step your child takes toward independence, you become keenly aware that you’re no longer able to protect them at every moment (and also that they’re growing up way too fast)!

The day your child gets their driver’s license and you send them off on their first solo drive, you may be tempted to trail behind from a safe distance just to make sure they arrive at their destination safely. Eventually though, you’ll relinquish control and trust that you’ve raised a responsible young adult who’ll behave accordingly behind the wheel, even in your absence. If you’ve taken that leap and now want to buy your teen a car, here are some things to ease your mind that they’re protected even without you there to hold their hand.

Should I buy a new or a used car? Ultimately, whether you buy new or used will boil down to your personal preference and how much money you’re willing to spend, but both have their advantages.

First Financial has great low Auto Loan rates – and they’re the same whether you plan to purchase a new or used vehicle!  You can view our current rates by clicking here.

A new car’s quality isn’t in question – it hasn’t been in any accidents and has no hidden flaws that a previous owner might’ve tried to disguise. Additionally, manufacturer’s warranties come standard on new vehicles, covering the car for at least three years. And New Jersey has a Lemon Law, which protects consumers if an authorized dealer is unable to repair or service the vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts.

Cars are built to last longer so a bit of mileage on the odometer need not be a deterrent or intimidating factor either. Used cars are a good option if you’re looking for more “bang for your buck.” It may not come equipped with the latest technology or gadgets, but will likely have a lot of the same features as a new car for less money. (The availability of fewer in-car distractions for an inexperienced driver isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either). An added bonus of purchasing a used car is they tend to be less expensive to insure.

What are the best cars for the money? If value is a top priority, U.S. News and World Report publishes an annual list of the vehicles it has awarded “Best Cars for the Money.” Judging criteria include the average price paid and five-year total cost of ownership data, expert opinion on the car’s performance, interior features and comfort, and reliability and safety data.

What are the safest cars to drive? Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates vehicles based on how well they protect their occupants in a collision. The vehicles are rated good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on how they perform in five crash tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover and rear. The highest designation that can be awarded is Top Safety Pick+. These cars deserve extra consideration because, in addition to protecting your precious cargo, insurance companies will often offer discounts for car safety features.

Insurance costs. One thing many people forget to consider when purchasing a car is how much it will cost to insure. Young drivers generally have higher premiums because their inexperience can cause them to be labeled as high risk. Used cars tend to be less expensive to insure so purchasing one is a way to reduce your teen’s insurance premium. Mercury Insurance also offers good student discounts in New Jersey to unmarried high school and college students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher, which can further reduce the insurance premium.

Once you’ve decided which vehicle to buy, emphasize to your teen that driving is a privilege, not a right, and to do it responsibly.

Did you know that as a First Financial member – you may be eligible for a discount on auto insurance through Liberty Mutual? Click here to get started.* We also provide a free auto buying and research tool, AutoSMART — a great place to find new and used vehicles!

Click here to view the article source written by Maryann Gowen, an independent insurance agent serving Wall, NJ.

*Discounts and savings are available where state laws and regulations allow, and may vary by state. Certain discounts apply to specific coverages only. To the extent permitted by law, applicants are individually underwritten; not all applicants may qualify. The descriptions of coverages are necessarily brief and are subject to policy provisions, limitations and exclusions that can only be expressed in the policy itself. Discounts and coverages vary by state and are not available in all states. For a complete explanation of coverages, please consult a sales representative. The TruStage™ Auto Insurance Program is provided and underwritten by leading insurance companies, including Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and affiliates, 175 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA.  A consumer report from a consumer reporting agency and/or motor vehicle report will be obtained on all drivers listed on your policy where state laws and regulations allow. Please consult your policy for specific coverages and limitations. The insurance offered is not a deposit and is not federally insured. This coverage is not sold or guaranteed by your credit union. First Financial Federal Credit Union Client #38361.

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4 Tips to Help 20-Somethings Manage Their Debt

Debt can be a heavy burden on anyone, no matter what their age, but increasingly, young adults are starting out deeper in the hole. A recent report from credit-score provider FICO shows that student loan debt has climbed dramatically for those ages 18 to 29, with average debt rising by almost $5,000 over the course of five years.

The good news, though, is that young adults are taking steps to get their overall debt under control, reducing their balances on credit cards and their debt levels for mortgages, auto loans, and other types of debt. With 16% of 18 to 29-year-olds having no credit cards, young adults are getting the message that managing debt early on is essential to overall financial health.

With the goal of managing debt levels firmly in mind, let’s take a look at four things you should do to manage your debt prudently and successfully.

1. Get a Handle On What You Owe.

In managing debt, the first challenge is figuring out all of what you owe. By pulling a free copy of your credit report you’ll get a list of loans and credit card accounts that major credit bureaus think you have outstanding, along with contact information to track down any unexpected creditors that might appear on the list.

Once you know what you owe, you also have to know the terms of each loan. By making a list of amounts due, monthly or minimum payment obligations, rates, and other fees, you can prioritize your debt and get the most onerous loans paid down first. Usually, that’ll involve getting your credit card debt zeroed out, along with any high rate debt like private student loans before turning to lower rate debt like mortgages and government subsidized student loans. With your list in hand, you’ll know where to concentrate any extra cash that you can put toward paying down debt ahead of schedule.

2. Look for Ways to Establish a Strong Credit History.

Having too much debt is always a mistake, but going too far in the other direction can also hurt you financially. If you don’t use debt at all, then you run the risk of never building up a credit history, and that can make it much more difficult for you to get loans when you finally do want to borrow money. The better course is to use credit sparingly and wisely, perhaps with a credit card that you pay off every month and use only often enough to establish a payment record and solid credit score.

First Financial hosts free budgeting, credit management, and debt reduction seminars throughout the year, so be sure to check our online event calendar or subscribe to receive upcoming seminar alerts on your mobile phone by texting FFSeminar to 69302.*

3. Build Up Some Emergency Savings.

Diverting money away from paying down long term loans in order to create a rainy day emergency fund might sound counterintuitive in trying to manage your overall debt. But especially if your outstanding debt is of the relatively good variety — such as a low rate mortgage or government subsidized student loan debt — having an emergency fund is very useful in avoiding the need to put a surprise expense on a credit card. Once you have your credit cards paid down, keeping them paid off every month is the best way to handle debt, and an emergency fund will make it a lot easier to handle even substantial unanticipated costs without backsliding on your progress on the credit card front.

4. Get On a Budget.

Regardless of whether you have debt or how much you have, establishing a smart budget is the best way to keep your finances under control. By balancing your income against your expenses, you’ll know whether you have the flexibility to handle changes in spending patterns or whether you need to keep a firm grip on your spending. Moreover, budgeting will often reveal wasteful spending that will show you the best places to cut back on expenses, freeing up more money to put toward paying down debt and minimizing interest charges along the way.

Click here to view the article source, from The Daily Finance.

*Text message and data rates may apply.

Social Media & E-Tools for the Small Business Owner Seminar Summary

Hand holding a Social Media 3d SphereWe recently held a business seminar presented by SCORE and guest speaker Stephanie Shaffery, president of Flair Marketing. Our presenters discussed important strategies to get your business out there on the web and the do’s and don’ts of social media marketing. Here is some important information you may have missed out on that could be key to helping your business succeed:

• Some great free websites for your business to take advantage of are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Blogging.

• There are many advantages when it comes to using social media. It helps you build relationships with your consumers, establishes your business as a resource, and helps build your brand and show personality.

Blogging – This allows you to share customized information with everyone while humanizing your brand and sharing your expertise on various topics relating to your business. When blogging, make sure you integrate your blog with your website because you never want to have your blog stand alone, you always want it to link back to your main website. You may find it hard to set aside time to write for your blog, but if you try to post at least once a week or every other week to stay active with your audience, you will be in great shape. Don’t be afraid to schedule blog posts ahead of time for each month so you can stay organized and less stressed. Also, make sure the layout and design of your blog is consistent with your webpage to maintain your branding.

Facebook – By using this free tool you are reaching over 1.15 billion users (and that number grows each day). Not only does it give you access to a wide range of consumers, but it allows you to create polls, post events, encourage participation, advertise your website/products/services, and so much more. Try to respond to a wall post within 24 hours – this shows tenacity and punctuality which are great qualities to possess as a business-owner. Remember to keep content fresh and up-to-date, add a cover photo and profile photo (preferably with your logo) and include hyperlinks to boost SEO.

Twitter – You can gain immediate feedback when using Twitter. You can also engage in conversations, promote offers and discounts, and establish your brand. Make sure you do your research before engaging consumers, let everyone on Twitter know who they are talking to (aka that you’re not a robot), and build your Twitter equity and credibility up. Don’t be afraid to follow other companies in your industry and see what they are doing in their businesses – you can use ideas and information from others that could be very valuable.

YouTube – This website can help keep the costs of video production down while providing entertainment and educational value. This also creates another channel for your brand but make sure to keep videos short and concise, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new things. Learn what works and what doesn’t work with your business and take constructive criticism from friends, family, and consumers.

Pinterest – This is a great option for any visual business to share images of your work, products, and/or services. Pinterest is essentially a virtual bulletin board where you can “pin” photos onto various “boards”. For example, if you opened a new restaurant you may want to upload pictures of some of your specialty dishes with an embedded link to your website therefore, when users click on the photo it will automatically bring them to your page. It’s the latest hype right now with over 50 million users and the number three most-popular social network in the U.S behind Facebook and Twitter.

The most important thing to always remember is to thank all of your fans on any social media platform. This lets them know that you appreciate them and their business and gives them a “feel-good-feeling” knowing that you personally recognized them!

For more information visit our Twitter page to view the seminar’s live Twitterfeed and search #MediaToolsSem.

The SCORE Association is a national nonprofit organization with a public service mission to maximize the success of America’s existing and emerging small businesses. SCORE’s 10,500 members provide client counseling and training through a network of 389 chapters, 800 branches, and a national as well as individual chapter Web sites. SCORE has been a resource partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA) since 1964. Their volunteer members, who are both retired, or actively engaged in their business or profession, have many years of experience to bring to bear on helping to create stronger more profitable businesses.

Flair Marketing Group is an award winning marketing firm, specializing in a unique blend of online and traditional marketing to help our clients achieve their sales and marketing goals. They offer marketing consultation and solutions that help your company stand out from the competition.  By focusing on personalized service and customized marketing programs that capture the attention of your target audience, your company is sure to stand out. Their hands-on personalized service encourages client input and makes the client first priority in designing award winning logos, corporate branding and identity, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly website design, development and maintenance.  Along with their highly qualified professional resources, they have decades of knowledge and experience in graphic design, websites, blogging, compelling content creation, social media marketing and SEO.