by Pete Deleo
In the United States, the birthplace of rock’n’roll, there are nearly 2.5 million guitars sold every year. And while the average price per instrument is higher than a typical holiday present—$433—guitars can actually be one of the most fiscally responsible gifts that you can give.
Once you’ve made the initial purchase, the musician in your life can enjoy a guitar nonstop with few additional expenses. Unlike more physical pastimes, they’ll be able to continue playing their guitar at any age. Guitar players can provide free entertainment, or even turn their hobby into a side job and make a little extra money too!
But purchasing a guitar should still be considered an investment. And just like any other investment, you’ve got to do your research and learn how to get the most bang for your buck. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to help keep the guitar player in your family from becoming another starving artist singing the blues!
Shopping for a first-time guitar player: If your 16-year old just got their driver’s license you wouldn’t purchase them a Rolls Royce. So why would you spend lots of money on a guitar? There are so many different types of guitars on the market today that finding the one that feels right can take some time. Check your favorite music store for guitars for sale on consignment, look online, or even look for guitars available for rent. That way, you can let your budding musician explore their newfound passion without breaking the bank.
Maintaining your instrument: Once you purchase your guitar you won’t rack up expenses as long as you maintain your instrument properly. A properly maintained guitar can last decades without anything other than the occasional new pair of strings. But if you don’t maintain your instrument, it can fall into disrepair, requiring work that can be more expensive than the guitar cost in the first place! Keep your guitar away from extreme hot or cold weather to avoid warping or cracking. When not in use, loosen the strings so that they put less pressure on the neck of the guitar, which will also help to curtail warping.
Consolidate gear for electric guitarists: Acoustic guitars require nothing more than a few fingers to strum their strings. Electric guitars, on the other hand, will be a little more expensive. You’ll need to purchase amplifiers, PA systems and cords—at the least. If you’re shopping for an electric aficionado, you can help save some extra money by purchasing all-in-one gear. For instance, some acoustic guitars come with electric pick-ups so it’s as if you have two guitars in one. There are also amplifiers that come equipped with PA systems so that you won’t have to purchase both separately.
Follow these tips and by this time next year, you may even have someone to play you some of your favorite holiday tunes! To see more great ways to save money in your daily life, check out Milford Bank’s blog here, our online Learning Center, or stop by a branch location near you!
by Jorge Santiago
Entering the home stretch of 2016, there are plenty of highlights coming up on the calendar: Thanksgiving, New Years and everything in between. The holidays can be full of excitement as you gather with friends and family to give thanks for the wonderful things in your life. With all the planning that goes into the holidays, they can admittedly be a little stressful too. With everything that you and your family have going on over the last few months of 2016, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the fact that many families in the local community are not as fortunate to be in a position to celebrate this year.
One of the most important things to remember during the holidays is that it is a blessing to have everything you need to enjoy a high quality of life. And it is equally important to lend a helping hand to those who do not whenever you can.
Here are just a few ways you can help contribute to the members of the local community that could use extra support this holiday season.
Feed the hungry: Some of the most unforgettable holiday memories are created around the dinner table. For families that struggle to put food on the table, local food banks provide significant relief. While non-perishables are always appreciated, you can also check with representatives at your local food bank to see which items are in high demand. If you have some spare time, you should even consider assisting food banks when they open their doors to serve families—volunteers are always needed. Check out a list of local food banks here.
Help fight homelessness: Given the chilly weather that sweeps in around the holidays, this time of year is particularly difficult for individuals with no roof over their heads. You don’t need to take out a mortgage to lend a hand—donate to local shelters like Milford’s Beth-El Center. The Beth-El Center does more than give a place to eat and sleep. It also offers support services, advocacy and community education. By partnering with organizations like the Beth-El Center, you can not only help the homeless members of the local community meet their basic needs, but provide a comprehensive strategy to reach a long-term and lasting quality of life.
Play Santa Claus: There’s nothing quite like the face of a child when he or she awakes Christmas morning to and sees what Santa Claus has left under the tree. But for many families struggling to make ends meet, toys are a luxury that is out of reach. In order to make sure the holidays are full of excitement for all children in the local community—regardless of which one they celebrate—donate to a toy drive this year. You can purchase a toy for any age group, boy or girl. Even if you can’t purchase a brand new toy, you can still contribute—simply select a few items from home that your own kids no longer play with. Click here to find a toy drive near you.
The Milford Bank will also be participating in and sponsoring a number of charitable events this holiday season, and throughout the entire year. Be sure to stop by any office location, read our blog and follow us on social media for more news!
by Nila Pathammavong
The saying goes that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. According to a recent report the common phrase is now more appropriate than ever. A pricing analysis conducted by NDP Group found that in many restaurant segments, prices have risen 5 percent in the last 12 months. At the same time, grocery prices have remained relatively stable. As a result, restaurant lunchtime traffic is down 4 percent and the average customer bill is down five percent—exactly the same amount as the average restaurant price hike.
According to NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs, “Price value, especially at lunch, is out of whack. Consumers have cut back because they can’t afford to go out for lunch every day.”
Nonetheless, you shouldn’t be cutting the meal from your diet entirely. So how can you take the bite out of your lunch budget without dealing with hunger pangs throughout the afternoon? Here are several ways that workers can deal with the rising price of lunches.
Bring your lunch from home. Packing your own lunch is a very simple solution to deal with the high cost of restaurant prices. The same sandwich you pick up at Subway will cost a fraction of the price if you make it at home. If you never seem to have enough time to make your lunch in the morning, consider doubling the recipe when you make a dinner the night before. If you have a short commute, you may even be able to stop home to prepare your lunch without taking too much time away from your work.
Plan your lunch around special offers. If you can’t find the time to prepare your own meals, at least stay alert for special discounts at the restaurants surrounding your workplace. There are often coupons in local newspapers or online, as well as in-store offers that may bring a meal that is typically too expensive back into your price range.
Eat family-style with your colleagues. Instead of footing a bill by yourself, bring a few colleagues out for lunch with you, order a few dishes that are easy to share and split the cost between yourselves. Not only will you all be able save a few dollars, but you’ll be able to sample a better variety of fare and get to know your coworkers better at the same time!
Graze throughout the day. The earliest humans were nomadic hunters and gatherers and would graze over the course of a day instead of sitting down for three square meals. You can get back to your ancestral roots by selecting a nutritious and filling snack, such as trail mix, and enjoying a few handfuls over the course of the day.
If the cost of your lunch break is leaving you sick to your stomach, try these cost-effective alternatives to eating out. For more ways to save money in your day to day life check out the Milford Bank blog here.
By Celeste Lohrenz
As a community bank, we understand that your success is our success. Without a thriving, engaged and prosperous community around us, we wouldn’t be where we are today. With the holidays approaching, it becomes more important than ever to lend a helping hand. This November, Milford Bank will be putting on a number of events for the local community. Take a closer look and see how you can get involved!
Food 2 Kids fundraiser: For many local children, the only reliable source of food is their school cafeteria. This weekend, outside of school, roughly 180 Milford-area kids will have no food to eat. Milford Bank is challenging the community to help raise funds to put an end to food insecurity. You can make a donation at any of our Milford locations until the end of the year. All participants will be entered into a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card. For raffle details, call us or stop by any Milford Location of The Milford Bank. For weekly updates, follow Milford Bank on social media.
Bite Sized Business Marketing Seminar Series: Milford Bank is also dedicated to providing area business leaders the resources they need to succeed. Beyond providing loans and investment vehicles for businesses, we’ll also be running seminars this month to help you grow your organization. There will be one event coming up this month:
- November 17: Growing Your Business with LinkedIn, with Susan Catalano, LinkedIn Expert & Managing Partner of LQLaCorte LLC.
In today’s digital economy, understanding how to boost your LinkedIn profile can help your business achieve success. to sign up, please contact Rebecca Tudor at mailto:email@example.com 203-783-5789.
Winter Wonderland: The Milford Bank will host “Winter Wonderland” on Thursday, November 25th at the Bank’s Main Office, located on the Milford Green from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. The event, which will take place during Milford’s Annual Lighting of the Trees, will feature various winter-themed activities for children and adults of all ages.
Attendees will be treated to character impersonators for a meet & greet and photos, a train ride, Pokémon lures, carolers, crafts and much more!
To learn about more ways The Milford Bank gives back to the local community this fall, sign up for our monthly newsletter here or stop by location near you.
By Matt Kelly
Savings accounts are a vital component of anyone’s financial planning. By putting aside a portion of your earnings into a savings account, you can grow your wealth by taking advantage of interest rates so that you can be assured you’ll have the funds necessary when a need arises. Whether you’re saving up for retirement, planning to put your children through college or even just looking to take a vacation, it isn’t necessarily important why you’re saving—it only matters that you do it.
But based on recent data released by the Saint Louis Federal Reserve, Americans are having a hard time amassing money in their savings accounts. According to the Fed, 70 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 set aside in savings. In addition, the Fed found that Americans’ personal savings rate is only 5.7 percent. While that number has remained steady over the past few years, it is only half the amount saved by Americans 50 years ago.
Financial experts have made a number of recommendations to help people protect themselves during periods of financial turbulence. Individuals should be saving between 10 and 15 percent of their income. Additionally, it is prudent to have six months’ worth of your annual salary to avoid a pitfall in the event of job loss or other unforeseen expenses.
With the holidays coming up, these statistics are particularly alarming. According to a recent Gallup poll, the average American plans on spending $785 on Christmas gifts this year. That means a majority of Americans are planning to deplete their savings accounts in order to get gifts for friends and family members.
But what happens when your car needs a new transmission? What happens if your furnace dies in the middle of winter? While these are worst-case scenarios, your financial strategy should follow the mantra, “hope for the best but plan for the worst.”
And while it may seem impossible to begin accumulating more money in your savings account, there are a number of simple steps you can take to start heading in the right direction.
For starters, stop by a Milford Bank branch location and speak with a financial advisor. An experienced financial planner will be able to help you isolate the problematic areas of your budgeting and offer additional advice on managing any existing debt you may currently owe.
There are also numerous budgeting tools available for free today that can help you accumulate data and track your progress in real-time, meaning you can get a more comprehensive understanding of your spending habits that might not otherwise be easy to spot on a day-by-day basis.
If you can’t seem to stay disciplined enough to stop pulling money from your savings account, you may also want to consider an alternative investment vehicle. Certificates of deposit, for instance, are ideal. You can select a term limit that best reflects your needs. During that time period you will not be able to withdraw your funds, but will enjoy high yield interest rates upon completion of the term.
To learn more, stop by any office of The Milford Bank or check out our online Learning Center here.
By Pam Reiss
According to the United States Department of Energy, Americans will drive 3.17 trillion miles this year. And whether a majority of the miles on your odometer were accrued by your daily commute or a cross-country road trip, the fact remains the same—you’ll be putting a substantial portion of your paycheck into your fuel tank.
Of course, there are ways around the expense—mass transportation is available in many areas. You can opt to purchase an electric vehicle. You can carpool to reduce your costs or even call a cab. But for many Americans, getting behind the wheel is simply a fact of life. Don’t worry though—if you don’t have the means or desire to trade in your vehicle for a more efficient model, there are still plenty of simple steps you can take to improve your fuel efficiency and drastically decrease your annual gasoline costs.
Here are five simple steps you can take to improve your fuel efficiency.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated. You don’t need a puncture hole to lose tire pressure. Variations in weather, as well as typical wear and tear, can cause them to lose 1 PSI every month. If your tires aren’t properly inflated your car has to work harder to propel itself, consuming more fuel in the process.
- Conduct routine preventive maintenance. If you treat your car well, you will likely be rewarded in kind. Don’t put off your regular oil changes, change your air filters and make sure you replenish depleted spark plugs.
- Keep your gas gauge in the sweet spot. Fuel efficiency is at its lowest when you have less than a quarter tank of gas. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should keep it full either. Gasoline adds weight to your car—10 gallons is roughly equivalent to 60 pounds. If you keep your tank halfway full, you can reach peak performance.
- Be conservative with heat and air conditioning. Have you ever blasted your heat to warm up your car, gotten too hot and switched over to air conditioning to balance the temperature? If so, you’re greatly reducing your fuel efficiency. Take advantage of nice weather and roll down your windows instead. Or if you’re worried about the cold, wear an extra layer until you get comfortable.
- Keep clutter to a minimum. Inspect the contents of your vehicle. Do you have items that you leave in your car on a regular basis out of convenience, even if you don’t use them? Every additional pound that adds to the weight of your vehicle is reducing your fuel efficiency. Schedule some time every week to clear the clutter out of your vehicle and the engine won’t have to work as hard to carry you down the road.
To learn more simple ways to reduce wasteful spending in your life, stop by a Milford Bank branch location to speak with a financial advisor, or check out more helpful hints at our online Learning Center here.
by Celeste Lohrenz
With the end of October just around the corner, it’s time to start preparing for the spookiest time of the year—Halloween! In the coming weeks there’s a lot to do—carve pumpkins, decorate the house, plan costumes, parties and trick-or-treating routes for the kids. But in the midst of all the holiday excitement, all the added expenses of the holidays can go unnoticed. In order to make sure you don’t get a fright when you look at your bank statement come November, take a look at these helpful hints for a cost-effective Halloween.
Cut down on energy-consuming decorations. Every neighborhood has one—the family that goes all out creating a nightmarish scene on the front lawn with decorations and lights. If that happens to sound like your home, consider making a few adjustments to your décor this year. Ditching the inflatable witches and ghosts will help keep your energy costs low. If you must, be sure to unplug them during the daytime to conserve electricity. Also consider swapping out old string lights with energy-efficient LED bulbs.
Coordinate trick-or-treating with several families. Toting your kids around town to go trick-or-treating is a Halloween tradition. By planning with your family, friends or neighbors, you can pool resources to keep your costs lower. Carpooling will help save gas and keep the streets safer. Sharing supplies like flashlights and refreshments will also make sure nobody has to spend extra cash on items that are readily available.
Participate in candy buyback programs. There’s nothing quite like the look on your children’s faces after they empty their pillowcases after a long night of trick-or-treating and see a heaping pile of candy sitting in front of them. But trying to eat it all can cause quite a bellyache. You can help offset some of your holiday expenses by looking for candy buyback programs near you. Many doctors, dentists and charitable organizations will pay you to turn in your candy so you can make some extra cash, promote a healthy lifestyle while helping others at the same time.
Make your own costumes. Trying on Halloween costumes at the store can be a blast, but it can also get expensive quickly. Don’t ditch the store altogher—it is part of the fun, after all—but go in with a different mission. Get an up-close look at the costumes that you enjoy the most and figure out how you can make them yourself with items you already own. You can even find many garments to help you piece together a costume at Good Will or other consignment shops. You’ll only be wearing your costume a few times at the most, so don’t lose sight of your financial investment in your costume.
Keep the chill out of your house. Whether you’re hosting a costume party or passing out candy to the neighborhood kids, the odds are good that you’ll be opening your front door a lot on Halloween. And while it’s not quite winter yet, that doesn’t mean you want the brisk fall air blustering through your home. You’ll have to crank up your thermostat to compensate, which means you can expect a nightmarish energy bill next month. Direct foot traffic to your garage, mudrooms or seasonal porches in order to avoid opening doors that lead directly into the heart of your home.
For more tips on managing your finances, stop by a Milford Bank branch location or check out our Learning Center here.
By Cortney Meng
Anybody in a relationship knows that love and money will invariably intersect. Relationships are partnerships, and managing finances simply comes with the territory. But the results of a recent survey conducted by SunTrust Bank revealed that finances are the primary culprit for many couples’ relationship stress. According to the survey, 35 percent of respondents cited financial management as the biggest cause of friction with their partner—ten percent higher than second place finisher, annoying habits.
The issue is much bigger than figuring out whether or not to split a restaurant bill. Financial management underlies most of the big decisions that couples will make together, from marriage, having children, purchasing a home, to taking a vacation or planning for retirement. Without developing a stress-free financial planning strategy, couples may end up overwhelmed, stressed out and never attain the goals they set for themselves.
In order to make sure that you and your partner don’t let finances become a bone of contention in your relationship, consider adopting some of these practices for managing your money together.
Set your budget around shared financial goals. If only one partner in a relationship is concerned about reaching a financial benchmark, your finances are likely to become a stressor. To make sure you and your partner are saving in synch, set a series of short, medium and long-term goals which you both aspire to achieve. That way, you’ll be able to stay on track and budget accordingly to reach the carrot dangling in front of you.
Leave room in your budget for separate spending too. Nearly half of respondents to SunTrust’s survey reported that they had different spending habits than their partners. Disproportionate spending is a breeding ground for resentment, so be sure when you’re planning your monthly budget to allocate an equal amount for each partner to use as they see fit, no questions asked. That way, an individual inclined to save more will have that chance, while someone inclined to spend more won’t need to ask permission. And because there’s a set cap on personal spending, the couples’ finances won’t get out of control.
Seek the services of a financial planner. Managing finances within the context of a relationship can be stressful because it is difficult to take the emotions out of a purely mathematical process. In such cases, consider consulting with a financial planner. You’ll receive an objective third-party opinion from an individual that can give you a clear path to meet your goals, as well as investing strategies that will be best suited for your lifestyle needs and wants.
Stop by any office of The Milford Bank to learn about the products you need to achieve your goals. You can also check out more information on our Learning Center here.
by Mark Attanasio
Even if you never actually see your paycheck and it is automatically transferred to your bank account each week, you may still know how much you’re making—maybe even down to the penny. Most people are fully aware of their income. But when it comes to net worth, the story is entirely different.
This is problematic because, unlike your income, net worth encompasses all your assets and debts. Calculating your net worth can provide you with a true measure of your financial well being, as well as providing you the information you need to improve your fiscal standing.
To help you figure out what you need to know about net worth, here are some of the questions others are asking too.
What, exactly, is net worth?
There is a simple formula that easily defines net worth. Add up all your assets—income, savings, investments and property. Then subtract all your existing debts. The total is your net worth.
When will I need to know my net worth?
While you won’t need to keep track of your net worth on a day to day basis, there are critical moments when it’s a good idea to have a firm grasp of your true value. You may want to understand the long-term trends for your net worth (how quickly you’re making or losing value) when planning your retirement or your estate. You may need it when looking to secure a mortgage or apply for student loans on behalf of your children.
I can’t touch my retirement accounts for 30 years. Do they count?
Your liquid assets are only one part of the net worth equation. Even if you don’t receive a distribution from your 401(k) or IRA accounts now, they’re still considered a part of your net worth.
Do I have the same net worth as my spouse?
Depending on how you and your spouse manage your household finances, your net worth may be identical or it could be drastically different. If you’re both listed as co-owners of your home, share a credit card or car, those assets will be attributed to both of you. If you both purchased vehicles separately, only the vehicle to your name will be considered for your calculation. However, if you add your partner’s net worth to yours, you’ll know your household net worth, which itself is important to track.
How do you account for outstanding car loans and mortgage payments?
When incorporating existing loans into your net worth calculation, you cannot truly consider houses or vehicles as assets until they’ve been paid for in full. So if you took out a $100,000 mortgage and have paid off $99,000, your home is still considered a $1,000 liability. But once you’ve made your last payment your home becomes a $100,000 asset.
Now that you have a better grasp on your net worth, stop by any office of The Milford Bank to see how you can continue to improve your financial standing today. You can also learn more at our online Learning Center or check out more financial calculators here.
by Celeste Lohrenz
Regardless of whether or not you’re the owner or an employee of a small business, do not make the mistake of thinking that your organization is under the radar for cybercriminals. While large attacks on businesses like Target or Home Depot might dominate the headlines, smaller organizations may be just as likely to be targeted.
In fact, 43 percent of all cyberattacks in 2015 targeted small businesses—a significant increase from five years ago, when that number was a mere 18 percent. There are a confluence of factors making cybersecurity even more pressing. The size and sophistication of cyberthreats continue to increase, while technology continues to play a larger and larger role in business operations.
A cyberattack can cause a network outage that may cost your business money through lost worker productivity, infrastructure repairs or a breakdown in communications. Privileged data can be stolen, leaving your organization, customers or employees vulnerable. Your brand may suffer a tarnished reputation if any of these circumstances come to pass, and your revenue stream could dry up.
Most small businesses do not have the budget to resolve these problems if they occur, so the need to improve your organization’s cybersecurity efforts should be a top priority.
Here are a few of the biggest cyberthreats to small businesses today, as well as measures you can take to ensure your organization is protected.
Phishing: If you’ve ever received a strange email from one of your contacts with a strange link embedded in it, you have likely experienced a phishing scam. The email wasn’t really sent by your contact—and if you click the link, your device may become infected with a virus that can grant a hacker access to any other device connected to your network.
The best way to protect against phishing scams is to educate all employees about what to look for when it comes to opening suspicious email.
Ransomware: Ransomware is malicious code that infects a computer and encrypts important data so that it cannot be accessed by the appropriate party. Hackers will demand payment for the safe return of your files—but may not follow through with their side of the transaction even if your business antes up.
Once you’ve been hit with ransomware there isn’t a lot you can do—even the FBI has gone on the record stating that in some cases, the best thing to do is to pay up. Instead, you’ve got to be proactive. Make sure any device connected to your network is regularly updated with the latest security patches, and if your budget permits, back up vital information in a secure data center.
Denial of Service (DoS): During a DoS attack, a connected group of computers infected with malware will rapidly send traffic to your website, flooding your page with more bandwidth consumption than you have available. The result is that your site effectively goes offline. If your business relies on Internet traffic as a means of generating revenue, you can’t afford to let your page be impacted by a DoS attack.
You may mitigate the impact of a DoS attack by quickly scaling up your bandwidth to handle strain of the added traffic. Check with your service provider for the appropriate connectivity package for your security needs.
Unfortunately, no business today is exempt from the threat of cyberattacks. Small businesses can be particularly vulnerable, though, because they generally have fewer resources to alleviate the financial hardship caused by a cyberattack. To learn more ways to effectively manage your business, check out our Learning Center here.