Smart Money Moves to Make in January

It’s January, and if you looking at the upcoming year – you are (hopefully) thinking about your finances and trying to plan ahead. Here are three items to definitely include in your annual financial outlook, and this is a great time to review them.

Review Your Credit

With mobile phones, laptops, tablets and apps, it’s easy to stay connected to our finances these days. Your credit score is something that you should especially be paying close attention to. If you are thinking about buying a house, car, or acquiring any type of loan, knowing your credit score is very important. It’s also significant to review your credit report to see if everything is accurate, especially if you were subject to recent fraud or a data breach. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from each credit reporting agency every year, and the start of a new year is a good time to review yours as you plan for the year ahead. Not sure where to start? Check out – it’s free, easy, and monitors your credit from all 3 major credit bureaus!

Focus on Saving Money

Even if you did a great job of saving money last year, you probably don’t have as much saved as you might like as of now. Fortunately, it’s the beginning of the year and there are many ways to reach your savings goals by December. An easy way is to automate your savings. More than likely your paychecks are directly deposited to your bank account. It’s extremely easy to add another account to your direct deposit, all you need to do it choose an amount you’d like to save for this year and redirect those funds to a separate savings account that you’ll vow to not touch during the year. Another way to save is add more to your retirement savings. If your employer matches or contributes in any way to your retirement – be sure to look at this and participate. This will mean a great deal later in your life. Not sure where to get started with retirement planning? Make an appointment with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial.* Our financial advisors are here to talk you through the planning process and ensure you feel comfortable in your financial future!

The last way to save money is to go on a “financial fast.” We can almost guarantee that most of your spending doesn’t fall within the “need” category, right? Take a good look at how you’re spending your money and cut out your “wants.” This year, try not to waste your money either. Are you actually using the gym membership you are paying for, or watching Netflix or Hulu? If you aren’t – think about canceling these types of services and only pay for ones you are using on a regular basis.

Are You Prepared for the Unexpected?

If your emergency fund isn’t in good shape, or if you don’t have an emergency fund at all – make it your immediate new year’s resolution. If you have credit card debt that has been lingering for years, don’t let it stay around another year. Review your monthly budget as well, and make sure it fits your lifestyle and expenses. Maybe you keep track of your monthly bills, but what about the annual ones you might sometimes forget about? Be sure to think about any annual fees coming for the year ahead and try not to let them sneak up on you (i.e. property taxes each quarter, annual gym membership fee, and so on). A good strategy to follow this year is to write down or make a note in your smartphone for any once a year or quarterly bills that come up – this way you won’t forget about them moving forward.

Don’t forget that as a First Financial member, you are eligible to make an appointment or stop into any branch for an annual financial review. If you’d like to get your new year off on the right foot, contact us today!

*Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: John Pettit for

Personal Finance Tips for the New Year

A new year just started – be sure to review the following to make sure you are financially set up for the next twelve months!

Review Your Beneficiaries

Make any needed updates to the beneficiary portion of your bank and retirement accounts, life insurance policies, IRA accounts, and so on. Choosing a beneficiary for your life insurance policy is important because your beneficiary will be the person(s) your accounts and policies will be payable to upon your death. Have you gotten married or had a child within the last year? This is also something to keep in mind when selecting a beneficiary and deciding if you need to make any changes this year.

It’s also a good idea to name a secondary beneficiary in case your primary beneficiary passes away. Review beneficiaries for all of your accounts annually. January is the perfect month to do so.

Check Your Tax Withholdings

It’s a good idea to review your W-4 form each year. If you remember from last year, it was the first year tax filers did their tax returns under the country’s new legislation. Was your tax return last year smaller than what you were used to in the past? Did you owe money on your taxes? If so, be sure to consult with your tax professional, put some money aside in savings, and review your withholding amount to see if anything should be adjusted.

Go Over Your Insurance Policies

You should also review your insurance policies on an annual basis: health insurance, life insurance, homeowners insurance, and auto insurance. You will want to review each policy to ensure you aren’t paying too much and that you have the right coverage. In looking at your homeowner’s insurance – do you have any newer bigger ticket items over the last twelve months that were not included in the previous year’s policy? If so, be sure to include them as you are reviewing for the new year ahead.

Look at Your Emergency Savings

Hopefully you have an emergency savings account with at least 3-6 months’ worth of savings in it that you don’t touch. If not, make it your new year’s resolution to start one ASAP! An unexpected accident or emergency can really set you back financially, so even if you are only contributing a small amount per paycheck – it’s important to have that back up bank account should you ever need it.

Contribute to a College Savings Fund

If you have children, are you contributing to a college savings fund to prepare for their future? A college education is not inexpensive these days, but there are some tax-advantaged products you can look into that will help you save over time.

Be sure to speak to your financial advisor, or if you are local to Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ – make an appointment with one of ours located within our Investment & Retirement Center. Our financial advisors would be happy to discuss 529 plan options with you at any time.*

Financially Plan for the New Year

It’s a brand new year with lots of blank pages – be sure to get a family savings plan in place, think about if you can afford to travel this year in January, or if your family will be celebrating any upcoming milestones this year. If so, think about opening a special savings account and automatically transferring funds from your paychecks into that account to save up for the year ahead.

Get started with a special savings account at First Financial, we are happy to help our members achieve their financial goals and dreams – and get off on the right foot in the new year!**

Article Source:

 *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.

**A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. 

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