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Save Like a Pro: Financial Advice From Famous Athletes

May 26th, 2016

by Jorge Santiago

What do you think happens to the millions of dollars paid to today’s professional athletes? Do you assume that all of them have fat bank accounts? If so, you’d be wrong. Unfortunately, many of these heroes of the gridiron and diamond squander their earnings. In fact, 78 percent of former NFL stars go broke within two years of their retirement, and 60 percent of NBA stars also find themselves in financial ruin once their stars have faded, according to a historic 2009 Sports Illustrated article.

As the Sports Illustrated article reported, the main causes behind these massive financial losses include bad investments, excessive spending, divorce, and mismanagement of funds by trusted advisors.

But then there are the sports figures who manage to keep their accounts in the black, such as Shaquille O’Neal, Phillip Buchanon and Derek Jeter.

How do these athletes manage to accomplish what their peers have failed to do? For Shaquille O’Neal, it’s simply a matter of doing his homework before investing, appearing in movies and television programs, endorsing a variety of products, and maintaining his own fashion lines in major department stores such as Macy’s and J.C. Penny. Despite spending $1 million in less than an hour after signing his first professional contract, O’Neal’s ability to invest intelligently and stay out of major debt came from simply saving his money. As O’Neal himself advises, “Let’s just say you got $100, you break it in half—smart people put $50 away and don’t touch it. Now you still got $50 left. But the really smart people, the people that know that one day you’re never gonna play again, they save $75 …”

Former NFL star Phillip Buchanon learned his lesson about finances the hard way. After signing his contract, Buchanon’s mother demanded that he pay her $1 million for everything she’d done for him. Instead of giving her the money, Buchanon bought her a house, which ultimately caused him “financial strain.” In his book “New Money: Staying Rich,” Buchanon advises new millionaires to do the following:

  1. “Draw a line between wants and needs.” Setting limits is imperative to avoiding the common financial pitfalls, such as giving away money and buying family members expensive things.
  2. “Watch out for takers.” Similar to setting limits, Buchanon advises new professional athletes not to give money to people just because they think you have it to spare. Setting up boundaries is fundamental to ensuring that people don’t take advantage of you.
  3. Surround yourself with people you can trust. Differentiate between true pals and fair-weather friends, as the real ones will want to ensure your well-being.

Another example of an athlete who has secured his financial future is 20-years baseball veteran Derek Jeter. This Yankee utilized a method similar to O’Neal’s, using his personal brand to start a business. He partnered with Simon & Schuster to publish books, and become a brand development officer and partner at the company Luvo. Jeter’s publication and business, “The Players’ Tribute,” is a way for Jeter to combine his own interests and experiences while providing professional athletes with an outlet for the release of information about their own careers or personal lives. By diversifying his sources of income and creating a new publication that filled a gap in the reporting industry, Jeter was able to maintain his financial position following his retirement.

If it is starting to look like your professional sports career isn’t going to pan out, fear not—by taking the financial advice of these former athletes, you can still save money with the best of them. Be sure to stop by any office of The Milford Bank to get more advice about achieving your financial goals.

Buying a Condominium? Carefully Assess the Related Association Fees First

May 20th, 2016

by JoAnn Sabas

Are you like many customers of The Milford Bank who are looking to downsize from a large single-family home or start small with a first home? Then perhaps a condominium is right up your alley. If so, you may be becoming familiar with homeowner’s association agreements, which list mandatory fees for maintenance, capital improvements and other items for these housing units. These documents can be quite complex and detailed to ensure a uniform appearance among the many members’ homes.

What this means is that you should look beyond the price tag on your condo when determining whether or not you can afford the overall costs. Remember, some of the association fees may not be expenses you would necessarily incur as the owner of a single-family home. So, to avoid unforeseen costs that could put your financial stability at risk, let’s take a look at both typical inclusions and things to be wary of in these agreements.

To begin, standard homeowners association agreements generally charge maintenance fees for property aspects that are communal, such as landscapes, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, fitness rooms, sidewalks, security gates, roofing and building exteriors. Depending on the neighborhood, the cost of living and the quality of the residences, these fees can range anywhere from $50 a year to several thousand dollars each month. Highly valued properties or locales excluded, you could generally expect something in the $200 to $400 range. In addition, a homeowner’s association may levy one-time fees, commonly referred to as “special assessments,” on members to cover major expenses, like the repair of a roof or a new HVAC system.

Conversely, here are some potential costs that could sour the deal for you:

  • Pre-existing conditions. Review your association’s rules before diving into the purchase of your condominium. You may find that you’ll be held responsible for a prior owner’s failure to maintain the unit. To avoid a nasty surprise upon moving in, confirm that your property is already in line with all association building, maintenance and appearance guidelines. After all, you don’t want to get started on the wrong foot with your residence’s governing body. Buying into an undisclosed problem will likely cause tension with board members or neighbors from the get-go. Also consider your own personal attitude when it comes to adhering to regulations about the type of flowers you can plant or colors you can paint. Some homeowners place great store on such freedoms; if this is you, be sure to read the fine print.
  • Fee assessment and funding. Does the association have catastrophe insurance, or will you be expected to pay out of pocket for damages caused by a flood, hurricane or tornado? How does the association determine fee increases in general? Can you obtain minutes from previous meetings? Is a record of dues and fees kept and maintained, and is it accessible? What do the association’s financial reserves look like? Consider that 70 percent of association-governed communities are underfunded, with most only being 52 percent funded. These are all questions to have answered before, not after, signing on the dotted line.
  • Amenities. You are going to be on the hook for amenities such as clubhouses, tennis courts and pools whether or not you use them.

The Milford Bank is in the business of ensuring the future financial health of our clients. Never hesitate to consult one of our financial professionals before making a home-buying decision.

The Milford Bank is an Equal Housing Lender.

Why You May Soon Be Seeing Yet Another New Chip in Your Credit Card

May 13th, 2016

by Patty Gallagher

When it comes to finances, concerns about privacy and security are not always top of mind for consumers performing a common action like making a purchase. And maybe they should be, since today’s customers frequently shop using plastic—most commonly a credit or debit card, which can be directly linked to their bank accounts. Trusting customers swipe their cards and type in their PIN numbers not realizing that their transactions, which contain their personal identification information, might not be secure.

Following the theft of millions of customers’ information in 2013, when a major data breach at Target affected 40 million customers who had used their credit or debit cards between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, banks and credit card companies decided to increase the level of security for credit and debit card users by installing a chip into each card.

This chip, called a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip and installed in EMV cards, or cards that meet the international standard of chip security and technology, produces a one-time code for each transaction. The card number is not recorded, as was done in the past—just the transaction code—reducing the ability of thieves to obtain card information.

Yet, as with any security technology, hackers have found ways to undermine the RFID chips by studying the radio frequency used and the fluctuations in the chip’s power source, scanning and then rewriting the chips to reflect their own data.

So, now what? Well, according to an article published by Science Daily on Feb. 3, MIT and Texas Instruments researchers have developed a new RFID chip that is almost impossible to hack. This newly designed chip will circumvent hackers by providing a power source within the chip (to mitigate any fluctuations in power) and memory cells that retain the information the chip is processing at the time the chip begins to lose power. As the chip will remember the data it was processing, hackers will not be able to rewrite or reroute the chips to reflect their own data.

One downside of this newly developed secure RFID chip is that it will mean longer checkout times for the consumer, as the chip will have to power on and store the data being processed every time the chip is activated.

In an era filled with constant threats to credit and debit card security, these technological advancements couldn’t come at a better time. While the level of privacy expected by bank and credit card customers may not have changed, the lengths to which financial companies have to go to secure personal information has undoubtedly increased. As hackers become more proficient at stealing personal information, banks, including The Milford Bank, will continually seek new ways to protect their customers. As new technology is developed and rolled out, we’ll keep you posted!

What is the ROI of a College Degree?

May 6th, 2016

by Lynn Viesti Berube

Attention high school grads: are you heading off to college in the fall but not quite sure what you want to study?

You are not alone.

According to recent statistics, as many as 80 percent of college freshman walk onto campus for the first time without having chosen a major. Moreover, upwards of 50 percent of those who do choose a major early end up switching majors at some point—often two, three, or even four times!

This article will give you several of the most rewarding majors in terms of return on investment (ROI), in order to help guide you in a smart direction financially, and can also show you what you can do with each degree. After all, college is expensive—why not make the most of it!

Without further ado, here are five of the best majors to consider in terms of ROI:

  • Economics

Pardon the bad pun, but economics majors really are getting an “economic” college education. The ROI of an economics degree from a public university is 182 percent—the highest on this list!  In terms of actual jobs and salaries, the median income for a corporate economist is over $115,000, while the average salary for an investment operations manager is nearly $143,000. Economics majors may see sustained job growth in this sector going forward.

  • Information Technology

Few industries are growing at a faster rate than IT, and that trend should continue through at least the next decade as mobile networks continue to expand, and healthcare IT becomes more prevalent. IT majors possess a skill-set that can be utilized in many facets of business.  The ROI for IT majors can range anywhere from 126 percent for web application developers (a position with incredible demand), to 169 percent for IT managers.

  • Math

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, math majors may have a tremendous number of opportunities available to them once they graduate. Math occupations are expected to grow by 28 percent over the next decade, and any position that requires complex computation likely requires a math major. From accounts payable/receivable managers to actuaries, many math majors earn well over 100 percent ROI with their degree.

  • Engineering

The last two majors on this list comprise the fastest growing set of majors across college campuses. Over the last five years, science and engineering degrees grew by over 19 percent (compared to 9 percent among other majors). The world simply needs more engineers, whether it’s electrical engineers (median salary of $92,000), civil engineers ($82,000) or chemical engineers ($76,000).

  • Biology

While behavioral science has seen a staggering 89 percent growth over the last five years to pace the sciences discipline, biology is the much better long term investment for students. The average salary for a behavioral science major is just $34,000—well below jobs that are available to those with a biology degree—such as health and safety supervisor ($72,000), clinical research associate ($72,000), and laboratory manager ($85,000). All three of those positions offer an ROI in excess of 100 percent.

For more advice on how to get the most out of your college education, stop by any office of The Milford Bank!

 

So You Got a Tax Refund. Now What?

April 22nd, 2016

By Celeste Lohrenz

Congratulations—you’ve successfully navigated your way through another tax season and  there’s a refund coming your way from the IRS. The only question now is what to do with the money. Sure, summer is coming and you could probably use a quick getaway to the beach. Or maybe you’ve had your eye on a brand new laptop. But if you want to get some extra value out of your refund, why not put that money to work instead?

The average combined state and federal tax refund this year is expected to be $2,900. And while you may not know someone who will argue the merits of taking a well-deserved vacation with that money, perhaps consider a different approach—one that keeps your long-term goals in sight.

With that in mind, here are a few ways you can get more out of your tax refund:

Catch up on outstanding debt: Maybe you’re behind on student loans or you charged a little too much to your credit card last month. Before you received your tax refund you may have been wondering how you were going to play catch up, and the answer has dropped right into your lap. Paying off outstanding debt will take some stress off your shoulders and improve your credit score. You’ll reap the benefits many times over down the road.

Save up for a few years: You may not be able to use a single refund for a large expense like a down payment on a house, but saving your refunds for several years might do the trick. For investments that are just a few years away, consider options like certificates of deposit, which have high interest rates and can be tailored specifically to meet your needs.

Save for retirement: If you can make a down payment on a house after just a few years of putting aside your tax refunds, think what you could save over the course of your working life. Put your refund back to work for you via an IRA or annuities contract, setting you up for a more comfortable retirement faster.

Make a charitable contribution: For community organizations, $2,900—or even a portion of that— could go a long way toward helping those in need. If you are financially stable, consider using your refund to make a charitable contribution. In many cases, it can be written off as a tax deduction for next year!

So if you’ve got a tax refund coming your way and aren’t quite sure what to do with it, stop by The Milford Bank and speak with one of our financial experts who can help you make an informed decision.

Three Ways to Bring Up Your Credit Score

March 25th, 2016

by Trish Townsend

Credit scores are a necessary part of making big financial decisions these days. Whether it’s buying a car, getting a mortgage, or even applying for some jobs, a high score shows you’re a responsible individual. If you’ve made some mistakes with your credit in the past, all is not lost. Here are three tips to help increase your score:

  1. Make payments on time. Don’t skip payments or send them in late. The best way to build or rebuild credit is to make on-time payments with your regular bills month after month. Make sure you pay one-time fees on time as well, such as for a doctor’s appointment, library overdue fee, or membership dues. These kinds of charges don’t normally appear on your credit report, but they will if you are late paying them and they end up going to a collection agency.
  2. Make consistent payments. Sending huge amounts to a creditor, then pulling back and barely making minimum payments or skipping a payment may hint at underlying financial issues and could suggest that you are not responsible with your money or your credit. Likewise, suddenly taking out cash advances or applying for short-term loans may set off alarm bells and lower your credit score. Set a monthly payment amount for debts you owe or credit cards, and pay that amount month in, month out over time. Concentrate on paying off one debt at a time if you have several by making one robust payment and paying the minimum on others, rather than throwing varying amounts of money at different accounts month to month. Once you pay off one, focus on consistently paying down the next. Never skip payments. Consistency and perseverance can pay off in the form of a higher credit rating.
  3. Keep credit card balances manageable. That high spending limit can be extremely tempting, especially if money is tight and you’re yearning after a big-ticket item, want to buy gifts or a few extras, or are planning a vacation. Resist the urge to just “charge it.” A good rule of thumb is to never let your credit card spending exceed 30 percent of your available balance. Remember, if your balance soars above that, it could take many years to pay off if you’re making minimum payments—and you’ll repay it many times over due to interest charges. Carrying too much credit card debt can also further damages your credit. Keeping your debt level low helps to show you are a responsible and trustworthy borrower.

If you are concerned about your credit rating or struggling to get out of debt or control spending, help is available. Speak to a Milford Bank representative for more advice about how to improve your credit score and manage your overall finances.

 

Go Mobile with The Milford Bank

March 18th, 2016

by Becky Tudor

The Milford Bank recently updated our mobile platform for customers by adding a mobile app for Apple, Android and Amazon tablets. The app is designed to make your banking experience more convenient by enabling you to manage your day-to-day finances from your own smart devices. Best of all, the app is free! (Although cell phone carrier charges may apply.) If you are not already enrolled, you can sign up here.

The app provides five basic services: deposits, balance inquiries, transaction history, bill and person-to-person (P2P) payments and funds transfers. Within Apple and Android devices, the app also provides ATM and office locations.

Customers are now able to access their bank accounts from wherever they are and whenever they want without having to worry about the security of their private information. The application was designed with your privacy in mind, and by making P2P payments you’ll be able to avoid points of sale which have been linked to instances of hacking like those perpetrated on card users at Target locations in 2014.

The mobile deposit feature is extremely convenient. Forget about deposit slips and envelopes –or even bothering to leave your desk. After endorsing your check, simply pick up your tablet, take a photo of the front and back of your check, open your app and use your photo to make an immediate deposit.

Plus, now you can check your deposits on the fly to confirm the time and date when the funds are made available in your account. While you’re in the app, feel free to check your balances and any other transactions that have occurred. All your accounts are visible through the app.

Fund transfers are easy too. You simply click on the “transfers” tab, and it opens the screen to a page that is designed for easy navigation and convenience. After choosing the accounts you want to transfer money to and from and the amount you would like to transfer, click the “transfer now” button, and your funds are on their way.

Another benefit is that you can pay your bills directly from the app. Once you’ve set up online automatic or one-time payments online, you can alter the amount of the payment(s) or cancel them altogether hassle-free and on the move. These electronic payments will allow for timely bill payments without the cost of stamps or physical handling.

Finally, the P2P feature can save you the hassle of writing a check to a friend or family member and then wondering when the person will deposit the check. A notification is sent to the recipient of the check, and then the recipient accepts the notification. This allows for information about your accounts to be up-to-date and accurate.

We understand that our customers today are constantly on the move and need the convenience of bringing us with them wherever that may be. The new features of our mobile app are designed to do just that. If you’d like more information on using the Milford Bank mobile app, visit our website here or stop in at any of our branch locations to speak with a representative today.

Make the Most (Think $$$) of Your Spring Cleaning This Year

February 26th, 2016

by Sindy Berkowitz

Have the winter months left your home feeling cluttered? What’s worse, is your living space fuller than your bank account? If both conditions apply, take a hard look at what is collecting dust around the house—perhaps it could help you financially. With Spring (and being able to open the windows again) right around the corner, there has never been a better time to get your home—and finances—in proper order.

According to a year-end 2015 Money magazine article, more than half of all Americans have set a money-related New Year’s resolution. Whether your goal is to pay down debt, put more money aside for the future or eliminate wasteful spending habits, The Milford Bank is here to enable your success. Here are some helpful suggestions to turn big household items just taking up space back into assets.

Sell Your Used Items Online. To rid yourself of unwanted property online, you may want to consider eBay or CraigsList. eBay offers both buyer and seller protection while taking a cut of your profits as a seller (and charging a store fee). CraigsList has no direct fees, but sellers must assume price negotiations and the risk of being approached by unqualified buyers. While Craigslist may be wonderful for that one-of-a-kind upholstered armchair you never sit in, your Pez® or baseball card collection likely would not sell for as much as it would on eBay. While other online marketplaces exist for used goods, you won’t reach the same number of prospective buyers on niche sites unless you have a very specific item or collectible to sell.

Have a garage sale. While garage sales have long been the traditional venue for unloading unwanted household items, making them a down-home favorite, they are not usually terribly profitable. They are also work-intensive: Preparation (e.g., sorting, pricing and advertising), being present at the sale and any associated clean-up of leftover goods all represent large time commitments. Another drawback? To make any money at all, be prepared to haggle with patrons over the price of every item. Before considering for this option, be forewarned that the average haul from a garage sale is only $300.

Donate for a tax write-off. Before dropping any unwanted belongings off at your local charity, document every item with clear, well-lit photos as a testament to their quality. The higher the value you can attach to donated items, the more you will be able to write off when tax season rolls around. Make sure you identify items explicitly to guarantee that their value isn’t called into question. For example, Goodwill’s Valuation Guide for donors lists the value of a donated coffee maker at $4-$15, meaning this is the amount the government will allow you to write off as a deduction for a “coffee maker.”

All of these options can produce cash in hand. So don’t let your valuable unused household items pile up like cobwebs in the corner. Act today! Your bank account will thank you.

In Four Baby Steps, Help Your Children Establish Their Own Credit Histories

February 12th, 2016

by Celeste Lohrenz

A sound credit history can help you obtain the best rates and terms when making purchases that lead to a more satisfying life (aka the American dream). Whether you’re trying to finance an automobile or a house, or even just rent an apartment, your credit score can be very important. And this situation is unlikely to change before your children reach adulthood. So, how can you help your kids establish credit histories that will support their future endeavors?

The path to a good credit standing starts with fiscal responsibility, and a great way to develop this in children is through exposure. That is, start building your child’s credit standing as early as possible. (Of course, all children mature at their own rate. Be sure they are able to handle responsible money management before helping them to establish credit.)

Here are some tips to establish credit histories for your children before the time comes when they step out into the world on their own:

1. Begin with a savings account: Because most banks will not allow you to open a checking account for your children until they are older, start with a savings account. You can open one for your child the day he or she is born or wait until the child matures to the point when such an event will have the most beneficial impact. Consider, for instance, whether or not he or she is earning money. Being an earner can be a good foundation for helping your child to understand the value of money. Putting aside some of their earnings could become a valued practice among children when you teach them what accumulated savings can buy.

2. Open a joint checking account: Once your child is older and a little more responsible, you can open a joint checking account. If you choose, both you and your child will be able to get a debit card for the account, and you will have the ability to monitor transactions. This gives your child a little more responsibility while still giving you oversight.

3. Obtain a credit card: The earliest age that your child can obtain a credit card is 18. If he or she has shown responsibility with their joint checking account prior to turning 18, then the child may be ready to move ahead. Many banks offer “secured” cards with a small line of credit while holding back a corresponding amount of cash in a linked savings account. This way, banks limit their liability and still enable individuals to start building credit by paying off the card according to set guidelines. You also may want to consider cards from retail stores like Target or Home Depot, as these are generally flexible and can help curb excessive spending because they are only good for purchases made in their stores.

4. Pay off a credit card: A good way to build credit is to show creditors that you don’t spend excessively, and that you consistently pay your bill on time. For this reason, impart to your child the importance of limiting spending to about 30 percent of the available credit limit and paying the balance off regularly each month. This is better than not using the card at all or maxing it out—even if it is paid in full regularly.

More doors will open later in life for your children when you help them build a sound credit history. To learn more about ways you can encourage your children to learn more about financial responsibility, click here to read our Cent$ible Kid$ newsletters.

Are you ready for tax season?

February 5th, 2016

by Lynn Viesti Berube

Filing your tax forms can bring financial relief in the form of a refund or financial devastation in the form of an audit. Planning ahead is a great way to make sure you maximize your refund and ensure your financial health. Make the best of tax season and lower your chances of getting audited with these tips:

File as early as possible. You’ll beat the rush as April 15 nears, and you’ll have time to catch and fix mistakes before the tax deadline. If you are due a refund, you’ll get it sooner. If you owe, preparing your taxes early will give you time to plan for making your payment. Also, you may be less at risk for identity fraud if you file early because it makes it less likely someone can file in your name over the coming months. One caveat: Be careful about using tax preparation companies that advertise giving you your refund immediately, before your return is filed. This may actually be a loan, and you may be required to pay it back with high interest. Read the fine print.

Keep receipts to take advantage of deductions. Most taxpayers take the standard deduction, but if you have deductible expenses above and beyond the standard amount, it may benefit you to itemize. Be sure you have receipts from throughout the year for the expenses you plan to deduct, and that they match the amounts you are claiming on your return. Be careful, however. Itemized deductions could trigger an audit. Be sure to do your research concerning deductions for business use of your vehicle, meals, home office, charitable donations, and home buying.

Keep track of possible tax credits for life changes. Life changes such as becoming a parent, purchasing a home for the first time, or pursuing higher education can qualify you for tax credits. Credits are different from deductions as they directly reduce tax liability, so they reduce taxes dollar for dollar. If you had a major life change in 2015, it may qualify you for a credit.

Avoid audit triggers. First, don’t rush your return. Take your time with it, and get professional help from a qualified tax preparer, if needed. Mistakes—even simple ones like misreporting your filing status or your income—can trigger an IRS audit. If you do itemize deductions, stay within the rules and don’t try to inflate them or claim them twice. For example, deducting mileage for the vehicle you use to deliver products for your home-based sales business is fine, but claiming a vehicle you only use for business purposes once in a while isn’t. Likewise, if you own a business and claim a loss year after year, the IRS may want to investigate.

Do you have questions about specific deductions? The IRS has help available by telephone or you can speak to someone in person at select locations. Find more information here.

 
 

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