Financial Choices You’ll Regret in 10 Years

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According to self-made millionaire David Bach, you don’t have to earn a lot of money to get rich. You don’t even need remarkable willpower to build a fortune.

Bach exposes these misconceptions, and more, in his book “The Automatic Millionaire.”

Before you write yourself off as an “average earner,” consider these common misconceptions Bach outlines about money:

1. You don’t have to make a lot of money to be rich.

“How much you earn has almost no bearing on whether or not you can and will build wealth,” Bach writes. “Regardless of the size of your paycheck, you probably already make enough money to become rich.”

On the flip side, a salary with a bunch of zeros tacked on the end doesn’t necessarily equate to wealth. At the end of the day, it’s just a number — and if the cash behind that number is not managed properly, it can disappear in the blink of an eye.

As Robert Kiyosaki, author of the personal finance classic, “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” emphasizes in his book, “Most people fail to realize that in life, it’s not how much money you make. It’s how much money you keep.”

The good news is that anyone can start saving — you don’t need to be rich to invest and take advantage of the power of compound interest. You just have to be smart about it and start as early as possible. When you start to save outweighs how much you save.

2. You don’t need discipline to get rich.

The ultimate money managers don’t necessarily work harder — they don’t have extraordinary willpower or discipline, Bach emphasizes. They simply automate their finances, meaning their money is automatically sent to their investment accounts, savings accounts, and creditors before they even have the chance to spend it. This allows even the laziest of people to grow their wealth.

“Making your financial plan automatic is the one step that virtually guarantees that you won’t fail financially,” Bach writes. You’ll never forget a payment again — and you’ll never be tempted to skimp on savings because you won’t even see the money going directly from your paycheck to your savings accounts. It also frees up valuable time and allows you to focus on the fun parts of life, rather than spend time worrying about whether you paid that bill or if you’re going to overdraft again.

3. You don’t need to be your own boss to get rich.

There’s a lot to be said about self-employment — many self-made millionaires determine the size of their own paycheck by building their own businesses, while average people tend to settle for steady paychecks.

Rest assured, if the entrepreneurial path isn’t for you, “you can still get rich being an employee,” Bach writes.

It all starts with investing in your employer’s 401(k) plan, if one is available. You’ll get large tax advantages, the money is automatically taken from your paychecks before you have the chance to spend it, and sometimes your employer contributes money to your account in what’s known as an employer match.

Perhaps most importantly, it allows you to compound money over time — and compound interest, if taken advantage of from a young age, can make you a millionaire.

As Bach writes:

The single biggest reason why paying yourself first into a retirement account at work is such an effective way to build wealth is that you make it automatic … Because this process is automatic, the chances are pretty good that you will continue doing it for a long time.

And by doing that, you will get to enjoy the benefits of a mathematical phenomenon most people don’t really understand but everyone can use to become rich — the miracle of compound interest. It comes to this: Over time, money compounds. Over a lot of time, money compounds dramatically!

To see just how much your money can compound, check out these charts. Or read about how one man is on track to accumulate just under $2 million by age 60 by maxing out his 401(k) plan.

4. You can build a fortune on a few dollars a day.

“The trick to getting ahead financially is watching the small stuff — little spending habits you have that you’d probably be better off without,” Bach writes. “Most of us don’t really think about how we spend our money — and if we do, we often focus solely on the big-ticket items while ignoring the small daily expenses that drain away our cash … We don’t realize how much wealth we might have if, instead of wasting our income, we invested just a little of it.”

He illustrates this idea with what he calls “The Latte Factor,” which basically says that if you ditch your $4 latte every morning, you’d have quite a bit of money to contribute towards savings — about $30 a week, or $120 a month. Over the course of a few decades, that money could grow substantially.

“Whether you waste money on fancy coffee, bottled water, cigarettes, soft drinks, candy bars, fast food, or whatever it happens to be — we all have a Latte Factor,” Bach writes. “We all throw away too much of our hard-earned money on unnecessary ‘little’ expenditures without realizing how much they can add up.”

To give you an idea of how much money you could have if you identified and eliminated your Latte Factor, he gives the example of making a $5 purchase (the average cost of a latte and a muffin) each day, which would cost you $35 a week and about $150 a month. If you invested that $150 instead, assuming a (very generous, admittedly) 10% annual return, you’d wind up with $30,727 after 10 years, $339,073 after 30 years, and $948,611 after 40 years, he explains.

Original article source courtesy of Kathleen Elkins of Business Insider.

4 Times You Should Ignore Good Financial Advice

finances-e1303266500480It’s so great when someone gives you advice that helps you make a positive change in your life. Sometimes, we can truly learn from the experience and the tips that others provide. However, there are other times when we need to learn to ignore the advice given to us by other people. While it’s often well-meaning, sometimes the advice that other people give can lead us down the wrong path entirely.

Especially when it comes to financial tips and advice, sometimes people become set in a certain way of thinking, or they believe a financial myth because it has been told to them by someone else. It’s important to make your own financial decisions. There are certain financial tips that are either out-dated or conditional. Some tips are just wrong all together.

Here are four financial tips that you definitely should ignore, and how to spot poor financial advice.

1. Avoid credit cards. Credit cards can be dangerous. According to Lifehacker, they make it easy to spend money, we can easily feel peer pressure to use them because so many other people do, and of course, the interest can really add up.

However, credit cards are not all bad, as long as you use them responsibly. If you can afford to pay the balance off immediately, there is no harm in using a credit card. There are actually several positive aspects of credit cards, including the fact that most credit card companies protect you against fraudulent charges (whereas if someone steals $200 in cash, you probably are not getting it back). Also, many credit cards come with excellent rewards.

Did you know First Financial has a lower rate VISA Platinum Credit Card, great rewards, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees? Apply today!*

2. Save first. It is absolutely essential to set savings aside each month toward future purchases, an emergency fund, and your retirement. If you don’t save now, you risk not having enough saved later. However, as important as prioritizing savings is, it isn’t always the right decision for each person. If you are drowning in debt, but you are setting aside hundreds of dollars each month toward savings (while your bills lay unpaid), you are probably making the wrong choice. There’s no use having savings if you are in a bad financial situation, and it’s getting worse because interest and late fees are piling up while you focus on your savings.

We offer a number of Savings Account options, click here to learn about our various accounts and to find one that fits your needs.**

3. Stick to your budget. Many Americans have a hard time sticking to their budgets (and many don’t even have one), and in general, you should try to stick to your budget. However, you actually need to be flexible when things change. If you go from a two-income household to a one-income household, and you are still living on a budget that was designed when you had a lot more money available, you could set yourself up for a lot of debt.

At the same time, when you get a raise, it’s appropriate to change your budget (even if you are just adding the extra income directly into savings or your retirement fund). Circumstances change, and inflation causes prices to go up, so it isn’t fair to yourself, or even responsible, to expect to have the same budget all the time. While in general you should try to stick to your budget each month, sometimes you need to reevaluate it.

Don’t forget to utilize our great financial calculators – they’re free and a great tool to help you get your finances on track.

4. Don’t take a risk. This is another piece of advice that is often well-meaning, but is given by people who usually are more interested in saving everything than taking risks. While it is important to save, unless you take risks, you probably won’t get very much interest back on your savings. People disagree about the best way to handle various financial decisions, but you have to determine what is right for you. You might lose a lot of money by taking a chance on a risky stock, or you might end up rich. Although diversifying your portfolio is often the smartest choice, it might not be the right choice for you. If you want to start your own business, but others advise you against it because of the risk of failure, you have to decide if the risk is worth it to you. There is very little financial advice that fits every single situation.

According to Fox Business, if you are trying to figure out if the advice you are receiving is bad, there are certain signs you should watch out for. If the person giving you the advice has a stake in your decision, they may not be presenting a fair picture. If you didn’t solicit the advice, that could be another sign to watch out for, and they might be trying to scam you. You should also avoid accepting advice that follows the one-size-fits all idea (like don’t take a risk).

Financial advice can be extremely helpful, whether it comes from a financial advisor or even a trusted friend or family member who really wants to help. Just make sure that the advice is really worth listening to. Also, remember to go with your gut. If someone suggests a financial move that you don’t feel good about, don’t do it. Whether the other person is intentionally leading you down the wrong path or not, your intuition might be trying to warn you.

Take advantage of the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial. If you have questions about retirement savings or investments, set up a no-cost consultation with our advisor to discuss your brokerage, investments, and/or savings goals. Call us at 732.312.1500 or stop in to see us!***

*APR varies when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. 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 Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**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. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

***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.

Original article source by Sienna Beard of Personal Finance Cheat Sheet.

4 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money

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Have you ever wished that someone taught you more about money as a child? The sad reality is that many students graduate from college with a degree but are unable to manage their money. Here are some tips to educate your children about money so they can better handle their finances in the future:

1. Talk isn’t cheap when it comes to money.

Dianne Caliman, creative director of The Centsables, an award-winning animated TV series on the Fox Business network, believes talking is key when it comes to money matters with children. She suggests including your children in the family’s money management activities such as looking through circulars and clipping coupons.

She points out that these types of activities are great jumping off points for discussions. Caliman explains that showing real life examples to children fosters understanding and meaningful connections to money management. “Show the kids your bills, and explain how purchases made earlier must be paid for now,” she says.

Caliman also reminds parents to be role models and to ask themselves the following: What messages do you send your children? Are you living beyond your means? Do you pull out the plastic for every purchase? Do you and your spouse worry or argue about money? She advises taking a look at your own money habits, and make any changes where you think necessary. “When you exercise good financial judgment, you are automatically teaching your children by example. That’s a win-win situation for all,” she adds.

2. Make a budget-based allowance.

Bill Dwight, founder of FamZoo.com, suggests giving children an allowance that is based on a very simple budget. “Make a list of the typical things you would expect your kids to buy for themselves over a period of time, plus how much you would expect them to save and give, and calculate an allowance amount to match those clear expectations,” he says. Dwight adds that as your kids mature, you can extend the budget to cover more areas of spending like clothing. This approach helps insure that an allowance is a personal finance teaching tool rather than an entitlement.

3. Practice paying back loans before college.

One way to get practice at paying back a loan is to lend your kids money. Dwight suggests teaching your kids how to manage loan payments by arranging a parent-financed loan for a big ticket item like a laptop or a smartphone. “Direct a portion of their allowance, chore or job payments to paying off the loan each period. By making regular payments over an extended period of time, not only will your kids appreciate the cost of expensive items more, but they’ll take better care of them.”

4. Take on the tough lessons, too.

No one said teaching kids about money was easy. It may take work to get kids on board with the idea. Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian knows this firsthand by getting a little pushback from his own granddaughter when it came to the topic. In her elementary school class, she has to “pay” for her school books and “rent” the desk she sits in with pretend money she earns through various activities, academic performance and good behavior. What she saves after expenses can be used to “buy” rewards.

Griffin points out that many parents feel ill-equipped to teach their kids money concepts, especially more advanced ones and don’t know what to do. He explains how there are many sources on the web that can help. Griffin recommends checking out Moonjar.com for younger children, because it explains the basics of saving, spending and giving. LifeSmarts.org is geared toward older kids and provides free lessons online via videos and other tools.

Griffin also suggests showing high school and college-aged kids an actual credit report. A sample one is provided on the Experian website to understand the different parts and what they mean. They can see how their financial decisions impact how prospective creditors view their credit history. They get to see how their financial behavior, such as paying bills on time or being late, is tracked and recorded much like a permanent record.

At some point, everyone has to manage their own finances. The more exposure and practice a child gets, the better equipped they will be in the future when they have to make financial decisions on their own. Consider teaching them age-appropriate lessons as they grow to help them develop the skills they need to successfully handle their money.

Here at First Financial, we have a few products and services just for kids so they can start saving for their future while having fun doing it!

  • First Step Kids Savings Account: First Financial’s unique First Step Kids Savings Account is specifically designed for young people, with a focus on education and fun.*
  • Dollars for A’s Program: For every “A” your child earns on their report card, First Financial will deposit $1 into your child’s First Step Kids Account!* It’s a great way to reward your child for doing his or her best in school. It also teaches the life long practice of saving for the future. To earn your dollars, visit a branch location.**
  • Summer Reading Contest: Every summer we have a reading contest where First Financial kids up to age 18 can earn rewards for the books they read, along with a great grand prize!***
  • Student Checking Account: A complete Checking Account for students ages 14-23. It comes equipped with an instant issued Debit Card, has no minimum balance requirements, and more!****

*As of 12/12/2012, the First Step Kids Account has an annual percentage yield of 0.05% on balances of $100.00 and more. The dividend rate may change after the account is opened. Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Offer applies only to report cards for most recent school terms. Letter grade “A” or 90%+. No back rewards available for prior semesters or marking periods. Available for First Financial members between 1st and 12th grades. Qualifying report cards must be submitted within 45 days from the date of issue. Child must be present and a $5.00 deposit to a First Step Kids Account is required to receive the Dollars for A’s incentive.  Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

***Credit Union membership and Savings Account is required to participate. Members up to age 18 are eligible to participate and must complete an entry form. Reader rewards must be deposited to a child’s First Financial Savings Account. Winning reader and 4 runners up will be drawn after the contest ends (September), and will be contacted by the First Financial Marketing Department. Forms will not be posted on the website before the contest entry period begins.

****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. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

*Original article courtesy by Karen Cordaway of US News.

How To Talk Money With Your College Student

SavingMoneyYour child is a college student, and you’ve successfully packed them up, moved them in, made several trips to Bed Bath & Beyond, and they’ve settled into their class schedule for the new year – you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, you’ve covered it all.  Or have you?  How about the skills necessary not to blow whatever budgetary limits that have been set for the first semester?

It’s not an easy maneuver to accomplish. The skills your child probably has to manage their own money are most likely the ones you’ve (hopefully) taught them.  And they may not have picked up as much as you think.  75% of parents say they’re having regular conversations with their kids about money, but only about 60% of kids say the same.

With that in mind, here’s a quick checklist of items to discuss with your son or daughter living at the college dorm:

  • Spending Limits

Some colleges will provide you with guidelines of how much spending money to give your kids. Northwestern University, for example, says about $2,000 will be sufficient for the 2014-2015 academic year, while the University of Arizona says $1,800 (not including books). Stretching those dollars, however, will be hard for kids who aren’t used to paying for their own pizza, let alone laundry and shampoo. It’s important to develop a basic list of what money will likely be used for – and how much those things cost,  to make sure actual expenditures fall in line with these estimates. Richard Barrington, senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com, also suggests doling the money out slowly – say a month at a time — and for specific purposes.

  • The ID Card

The student ID card gets you into the library and the dining hall. And it’s essentially a prepaid debit card, as well. Parents can put money on an account and students use that money for food, copies or whatever other campus services they need. What’s good about these cards is that you (and your student) have the ability to check what the balance is at any time. And, because the amount on tap is capped, there’s not the same risk you’d have if you handed your child a credit card (more on that in a moment). Talk about the card with your child so they can prevent spending all the money on the card right away.

  • Picking the Right Financial Institution

Although it may seem more convenient to have your child bank at the same institution you do – so that you can transfer funds into his or her account in the event of a shortfall – it may also prove to be more expensive. The Achilles heel of the college student when it comes to banking is the $3 a pop (or more) ATM fee at the campus or other local ATM. Unless your child has an account and card with one of those, these ATM charges can add up.  Be sure to investigate the banking situation – does your current institution offer Online Banking with a mobile app and remote deposit?  This may be another great, easy alternative for your student at college.

First Financial’s has a great Student Checking Account available for 14 to 23 year old students, which includes:

  1. A free first box of checks, and an allowance of the first mistake being free+.
  2. Free phone transfers to the account by parents.
  3. No per-check charges – unlimited check writing without getting charged after writing a certain amount of checks.
  4. No minimum balance requirements.
  5. No monthly service charge for having the account.
  6. A personalized Debit Card issued instantly in one of our Monmouth or Ocean County branches.
  7. Free Online Banking with Bill Pay++.
  8. Unlimited in-branch transactions.
  • A Credit Card for Emergencies

Since the passage of The Credit CARD Act in 2009, kids under 21 are not supposed to be issued credit cards of their own unless they have either income to support their spending or a co-signer. But the credit scores of millennials have also suffered as a result.  If you want your child to have credit on hand for either emergencies or regular usage and/or build a credit history while in college, the best way to go about it is to add your child to one of your accounts as an authorized user. Make sure the card you choose actually will report on the child’s behalf to the credit bureaus. Nearly 25% of college students now also have prepaid cards in their wallets. This might solve the budgeting/emergency problem, but not the credit score issue – as prepaid card history isn’t reported to the credit bureaus.

  • Talk to Your Child About Getting a Part-Time Job

The money they’re undoubtedly going to spend on a college campus – like anywhere else – looks far more valuable when they’ve actually earned it.  If there’s room in your child’s schedule, it might be a good idea to investigate a part-time job that’s manageable.

*Article Source Courtesy of Fortune.com by Jean Chatzky

*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 Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

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.

Where Can You Still Find Free Checking? At First Financial!

accounts_check_185199-resized-600Many banks have done away with Free Checking. We keep hearing reports of big banks charging big fees for simple services like checking – or raising the fees they were already charging. One big bank in particular, has decided to begin charging $7 a month to New Jersey residents just for the privilege of having a checking account or writing checks. The fee will decrease to $5 a month if the bank’s customers elect online statements.

If these bank customers want to pay $7 to write checks and receive e-statements, we wish them well. Here at First Financial Federal Credit Union, we’ve always believed it’s our privilege that you choose to be a member and that you choose to deposit your money here – whether for checking, savings, or any other purposes. We’re happy to provide you with a variety of checking services including Free Checking, to best meet your lifestyle. The very fact that you do your banking here is good for us and good for you!

Of course, it helps that we are owned by you – our members. You tend to do business in a more service-oriented manner when that’s the case. We also think that’s why more and more people are giving credit unions a fresh look. For us, it’s not all about squeezing every last dollar out of people in the form of fees and charges. It’s about serving the best interests of our members – period.

So if you’d like completely free checking*, come talk to us. If you’d like to be a member of an organization whose every decision is designed to meet your needs, we’re here for you! There are still places out there like this, and First Financial is proud to be one of them.

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*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. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey.