The Savings Spotlight Series, Part 1: First-time Savers

By Chaz Gaines

Every individual has different goals and unique circumstances that help to guide the decisions they make when it comes to their savings strategy. Some people have decades of work ahead of them to steadily sock away money for retirement, while others are looking to gain ground quickly with retirement just a year or two away. Some individuals have large families with children to send off to college, while others are responsible for only themselves.

In the Savings Spotlight series, we’ll take a look at some of the big benchmark moments throughout life. We’ll look at how teens, recent graduates, young families, and those closer to retirement all have varying needs that require a different savings approach.

In Part 1, we’ll provide some savings advice for teenagers who are first-time savers. Just because they’re young, it doesn’t mean that their summer jobs or weekly allowances can’t help them to begin building a robust portfolio to maximize their savings now. If you’re a teen, or have a teen, who is just starting to learn about saving money, here are a few tips to get them started.

Distinguish between short, medium, and long term savings

It’s important for kids to be kids, while also learning fiscal responsibility. As such, there’s nothing wrong with a teen wanting to save up for a concert or snowboard at the same time they’re saving for college, or even retirement. It’s simply about making a clear distinction and sticking to your plan.

Putting savings strategies into context

When it comes to long term saving, it is easy for teens to be too reactionary. For instance, a minor stock market correction could seem like the next Great Depression if you don’t have the benefit and wisdom that comes with watching such fluctuations occur for decades. Teens must remember that, depending on the investment vehicle, the money they set aside today may not be used again for another half century. As such, it’s best to set a strategy and stick to it, rather than continually pull your money in and out of savings to try and time the markets.

Thinking about risk and reward

Risk and reward are inherent in any investment. Finding the most optimal vehicle for your needs is all about striking the right balance between risk and reward. Young investors don’t typically have the assets to make a lot of risky investments. But conversely, they’ve got lots more time to make up ground if a high risk-high reward investment doesn’t pan out. Young investors are in a unique opportunity to use their age to their advantage, but you must assess your risk tolerance carefully first.

Never too young for life insurance

While teenagers might think they’re immortal, certain types of life insurance can offer significant savings upside for teens. Whole or permanent life insurance contracts provide additional savings components, as they accrue cash value when you make premium payments. And because age and health are critical elements in determining the premium costs of a life insurance contract, the younger you are when you lock in your rates with a permanent plan, the cheaper it will be and the earlier you’ll start saving. Not only will you protect yourself and your future family later in life, but you’ll have a big leg up on your cash value investment too.

At The Milford Bank, we have helped countless members of the Milford and Stratford community develop successful savings strategies for their wants and needs. No matter where you might be with your own personal savings strategy, we can help. Stop by any Milford or Stratford location near you, or check out our Online Learning Center to learn more.

And be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll be highlighting savings strategies for recent graduates.

Baby Boomer Retirement Planning, Part 1: The Challenge Ahead

By Sindy Berkowitz

Earlier this year, the Insured Retirement Institute released its annual study covering the Baby Boomer generation and its financial preparedness for retirement. Since the IRI’s first publication in 2011, the number of Americans over the age of 65 has increased over 18 percent. Yet, despite the steady incline of retired Baby Boomers, this year’s study demonstrates that this generation still has yet to find answers to some of the greatest challenges facing Americans in retirement today. In fact, only 23 percent believe they have enough saved to last their entire retirement.

This series will dive deeper into the state of Baby Boomer retirement planning, providing insights into the unique challenges ahead for the average American retiree. In addition, we will offer several ways to help you start putting your planning on the right track to ensure that you and your loved ones can maintain the quality of life you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

In Part 1, we will take a closer look at some of the biggest challenges you’ve got to address in order to ensure that your wealth lasts a lifetime.

Inflation: The cost of everything, from a gallon of milk to real estate, is subject to inflation. On a yearly basis, you might not notice the incremental price increases, but over time, inflation will degrade your buying power. As funding a retirement account is a long-term savings strategy, you must factor inflation into your planning.

Market fluctuations: Investments tethered to the stock market can offer a strong return on investment, but they can also leave you more exposed to risk.  If the markets enter a period of decline as you reach retirement age, you may be forced to find other means to recover.

Medical expenses: Americans are, fortunately, living longer than ever. But that also means that retirees will likely have more medical expenses to account for as well. According to the IRI’s 2017 report, 82 percent of Baby Boomers underestimate the cost of medical expenses to come.

Income gap: Pension participation is not as common as it used to be, and Social Security will only account for a portion of the paycheck you received during your working days. Many Americans don’t realize that assured income streams may be lower than the monthly expenses they’ll see in retirement, setting them up for a gap in wages that must be recovered to maintain their lifestyle.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve helped countless individuals—from their first savings account, to retirement planning, and everything in between. We are ready to work with you to craft a saving strategy that will help you navigated the uncharted waters of retirement.

Be sure to check back next time for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll be discussing some strategies to help you avoid the challenges you face in retirement planning. You can also learn more by checking out our Online Learning Center here.

Talking Dollars, Cents and Sense about Flu Season

By Lynda Mason

Living in New England, Milford and Stratford residents always have something special to look forward to at this time of year. We’ve got brilliant foliage in the Fall and picturesque, snowy landscapes in Winter. But there’s one seasonal event that nobody in New England is looking forward to: flu season.

While most of us consider the flu to be a minor inconvenience, the truth is that this seasonal contagion has a significant part to play for just about every family in the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts influenza on an annual basis. So even if you’ve managed to steer clear, the chances are good that someone in your home will catch it—and it could cost you much more than a few boxes of tissues.

The CDC reports that flu cases cost $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses and $16.3 billion in lost earnings. Children, meanwhile, will miss 32 million days of school each year due to the flu.

Further, the flu leads to tens of thousands of hospitalizations, and worst of all, thousands of deaths caused by flu-like symptoms.

Looking at these figures makes it clear just how devastating the toll of influenza can be. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to ensure that you don’t contract, or spread, the flu this season.

Review the CDC’s updated influenza guidelines: Every year brings a new strain of influenza. This year is expected to be more virulent than the 2016 version, so it is important to stay informed. You can check out the CDC’s 2017-2018 flu season guide here.

Avoid doctor’s offices and hospitals: As a contagious virus, doctors’ offices and hospitals are natural vectors for the flu. There are good odds of encountering someone with the flu, or passing it to others, if you go to these facilities. For that reason, many individuals opt to act preemptively and get flu shots at retail pharmacies before they get sick. If you think you may have the flu, check with your PCP about their telehealth services so that a doctor can diagnose you over a videoconference instead.

Of course, every individual has different needs when it comes to flu shots, and you should consult with your physician to first see if it is the right decision for you or your family.

Practice good health habits: The flu, like any other germ, cannot thrive in a sterile environment. While the CDC does state that flu shots are the single most effective way to prevent flu, it also names a number of health-conscious choices you can make that will help you avoid contracting the virus. This includes: washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, drinking lots of fluids, getting lots of sleep and eating nutritious meals.

At The Milford Bank, we believe that physical health and financial health go hand in hand. Taking care of your body will help you take care of your finances, so when it comes to flu season, we want to make sure our customers don’t end up spending the next few months in bed with a thermometer under their tongue and a ball of tissues in hand. To learn more ways to stay in good shape—both physically and financially—check out our Online Learning Center here.

Money Talks—How You Should, and Shouldn’t, Discuss Your Finances

By Pat White

There are few things in life more uncomfortable than talking about finances. In fact, people are even seven times more likely to discuss their love life with a total stranger than they are their salary. Despite the difficulties we have with communicating about our money, it is nonetheless important to do so.

If you have children, it is imperative that they learn early how to respect and recognize the value of a dollar. Whether they just opened their first checking account or are saving up to buy a car, it’s up to you to guide them. The lessons you impart onto your children now will forge an indelible mark on their financial decision making processes for years to come.

Couples might find this topic a little more difficult. Each partner comes in with habits and strategies of their own already in place. In these cases, it isn’t necessarily a matter of educating the other partner, as with children. Instead, it’s a matter of having open and honest communications about where you stand now, where you want to end up, and how you’ll get there as a couple. This is as true for a middle-aged couple planning for retirement as it is for a couple that has just started dating.

Of course, when having these conversations, you should be mindful of the fact that it can be a touchy subject. In order to make sure the conversation is a productive one, consider the following tips on how you should, and shouldn’t talk about money.

Point the finger at yourself: In a partnership, both parties need to agree to a strategy—and stick to it. But what do you do when your partner strays from the plan? You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to call their attention to it. But we’ve all made mistakes, and they might remind you of that fact. Such conversations can quickly escalate into finger-pointing, justification and hurt feelings. Instead, turn the attention onto yourself. Mention to them how you intend to curb your own overspending, or give an example of how you overcame a similar obstacle in the past. They’ll likely get the point without the feeling of being under attack.

Make it about the math: Numbers don’t lie. They’re objective, rational and provable. So why do difficult conversations about money quickly get overtaken by emotion? It’s when we stray from the numbers that our passion can get the better of us. When talking about money be sure to set aside any other grievances you may harbor and simply stick to the facts at hand.

Finding the middle ground: Currency only works because we all accept the value of money as a society. But that doesn’t exactly mean that everyone values money in the same way either. Some are happy to watch their savings account grow, while others would rather spend their paycheck right away. As such, you can’t assume to have all the answers when talking finances with others.  Appreciate their perspective as you’d hope they would do for you, and always be ready to find a compromise that meets the needs of you and your partner, family or business.

Talk in percentages: Calling attention to your finances can make those in different economic circumstances uncomfortable. In some social circles, it’s even considered a faux pas. In order to have an honest conversation without calling attention to your actual worth, speak in percentages. Rather than saying you’ll invest $20,000 into a Mutual Fund, say that you’re investing 20 percent of your assets instead. It keeps the conversation vague enough to be respectful, while open enough to be engaging and honest.

Of course, at The Milford Bank it’s our job to talk finances. We’ve heard it all before and are always ready to listen. If you’re ready to talk finances, stop by an office location in Milford or Stratford today. You can also find more valuable resources at our Online Learning Center.

 

Equifax Data Breach Hits 143 Million Americans

By Susan Shields

These days, there aren’t many big financial decisions that you can make without a credit report. You’ll need one to buy a home, lease a car, and maybe even land a job. But if you had your credit report put together by Equifax, you may be one of 143 million Americans with personally identifiable information now up for sale on the black market following a data breach at the agency.

According to Equifax, the breach began in mid-May and lasted through July. Among the information obtained by hackers includes peoples’ names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even driver’s license numbers. Additionally, over 200,000 individuals had their credit card numbers stolen.

If you’ve been affected and fail to act, an individual who obtains your records can devastate your life. You may be on the hook for faulty loans, parking tickets, and any other poor choice made by a criminal in your name.

Recently, the FTC put together a set of recommendations to see if you’ve been impacted and, if so, what you can do about it. Read on to check out the steps you need to take to ensure the security of your credit. But be sure not to begin until you’re on a secure Internet connection.

  • First, see if you were affected. You can find out by clicking here.
  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for irregularities.
  • Put a credit freeze on your files—you’ll have to unfreeze them to do another credit report, but it will also be harder for someone else to make a new account in your name.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against freezing your credit, place a fraud alert on your files to warn creditors to verify the identity of anyone who attempts to use your information to secure a line of credit.
  • File your taxes as soon as you get the necessary information so that scammers don’t beat you to the punch and steal your refund.

There’s no arguing that the financial technology at our disposal today can make banking more convenient and cost effective. But we must always remember that emerging technology must be respected and handled with the utmost care. As long as you maintain a strong cybersecurity strategy, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the would-be scammers that seek to take advantage of the unsuspecting today.

To learn more about how you protect your finances, check out our Online Learning Center. You can also stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford for more support.

FTC Warns: Watch Out for Scams When Donating to Hurricane Victims

By Jorge Santiago

Late last month, the historic Hurricane Harvey hit the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana with record-setting rainfalls, leveling entire communities in its path. The aftermath is hard to believe: billions of dollars of property damage and thousands of lives changed forever.

But in these trying times, the good will of the American people is always on full display. You may recall seeing the images of neighbors pulling neighbors out of treacherous flood waters, or first responders helping victims make their way to shelters. And of course, support is coming in from around the country in the form of donations too.

However, con artists often take advantage of disasters like Harvey to try and make a quick buck for themselves. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy several years ago, con artists duped unsuspecting donors out of more than $20 million, depriving the storm’s victims of vital supplies.

In order to help good Samaritans avoid the same pitfall in the aftermath of Harvey, the FTC has released a set of tips to help make sure your good will ends up being put to good use. Let’s take a look at how you can avoid being victimized yourself:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.
  • Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it.
  • Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate—research the organization yourself.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before making your donation.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

If you’re not sure whether or not the group you’re donating to is a legitimate organization, you can follow up through the Better Business Bureau by clicking here.

As a community bank, we at The Milford Bank firmly believe in the importance of lifting up our neighbors in times of need. And in the face of emergencies, the last thing we need are con artists taking advantage of the moment. But don’t be discouraged from lending a hand yourself—by taking the time to follow these tips and do a little research yourself, you’ll be able to help families start their lives all over again.

Milford, Stratford Residents: What’s Your Emergency Preparedness Plan?

By Jorge Santiago

In light of the recent hurricanes that have devastated communities from Texas to Caribbean, Americans are taking notice and recognizing the importance of making sure they themselves are prepared in the case of an emergency.

Of course, with Milford and Stratford both on the shoreline, planning for a hurricane should not be out of mind. But the reality is that even a simple, general preparedness plan can help you, and your family, avoid the worst in the event of any type of calamity.

Fortunately, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued a set of suggestions to help you establish a preparedness plan that will best suit your family’s needs. Let’s take a look below:

Make a family communication plan

It’s not as easy to shepherd your family to safety if they’re not all at home when disaster strikes. That’s why you need to have a clear plan in place for connecting with each other. This should include completing a contact card for each family member, choosing an emergency contact, knowing the number for local emergency numbers, and also making sure each member of your family knows how to text.

Make a family disaster plan

Different emergencies will warrant different responses. Your family should assess the types of emergencies that are most likely in your neighborhood, and come up with a specific course of action for each. This can include: finding safe spots in your home, choosing multiple meeting places around town, and determining the best escape routes out of your home, neighborhood or the general area.

Get your kids ready

If you become incapacitated yourself, it is vital that your kids know how to appropriately respond to an emergency themselves. Your children should know how (and when) to call 911, and be involved in all your emergency preparedness planning.

Additional steps to get prepared

In addition to preparing with your family, there are several other tips outlined by the CDC that will ensure that your preparedness plan goes off without a hitch. Make emergency kits for both your home and your car. Stay informed on current events in your area. Be sure to have appropriate insurance on your home. Learn about how, why and when to turn off water, gas and electricity at the main shut-offs, and be sure that your whole family knows how to use your fire extinguisher.

Of course, all this planning wouldn’t be complete without practice. Be sure to run an emergency simulation at least once per year to see how ready your family is, and where you can still make improvements. It might seem like a lot of work now, but it can be hard to think straight in an emergency and you don’t want to have to iron out the wrinkles in your plan when there’s an actual dilemma.

To learn more about all the ways that Milford Bank can help you protect your family today, click here or stop by any location of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford today.

 

New Study Reveals Shifting Consumer Expectations for Financial Services Industry

By Jorge Santiago

The proliferation of connected technology over the past decade or more has reached a point of near ubiquity, with smartphones, tablets and other Internet-enabled devices just about everywhere we look today. These devices, and the power to connect, has given rise to a drastic shift in consumer expectations and behavior, forcing all industries to rethink their strategy for engaging and retaining customers.

The financial services industry has been no different, based on the results of a recent Accenture Consulting study. The study of nearly 33,000 banking customers spanned 18 markets throughout the world and found that five key attributes were reported consistently.

So what were the five key attributes that consumers today expect from their bank? Let’s take a closer look below:

  1. Service expectations: The modern consumer expects a high level of customer service and is not afraid to look elsewhere if expectations are not met. According to the results of Accenture’s study, a majority of consumers want banks to match tech providers’ digitally-driven service level.
  2. Personalization: Consumers today are willing to share data with their bank, this study shows, but they view data as a currency and want something in return. Banks must add value with data by personalizing experiences, from offering tools for financial management or real-time offers based on location.
  3. Appetite for innovation: Over half of survey respondents said they would want to be able to receive instantaneous financial advice via mobile communications. This exemplifies the type of innovation consumers today demand, in which new ways of accessing banking products and services can make a tangible impact in their day to day lives.
  4. Seeking self-service: While consumers do expect a high degree of customer service from their financial institutions, a majority of customers still want the availability to resolve a majority of inquiries without any assistance. This even extends into services themselves: 61 percent of survey respondents said person-to-person payment tools would be useful, while half of respondents wanted tools providing direct access to digital currencies.
  5. New branch experience: While we’re certainly living in a Digital Age, consumers still have plenty of use for their local branch too. However, they do expect that experience to change. Two-thirds of consumers say it is important to have devices that allow them to access their online banking in the branch, and that it is important to have advanced ATMs at the branch.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve taken extensive steps to stay at the cutting-edge, eagerly bringing technological innovation into our branches to facilitate a greater degree of care for our customers without sacrificing the personalized, community bank experience that makes us unique. To learn more about all the ways The Milford Bank is stepping up to meet the changing needs of our customers in the Digital Age, click here.

Five Ways to Save On Your Back-to-School Shopping List

By Tina Mason

Though the days are still long and warm, summer is eclipsing sooner than anyone would like to admit. And as the summer winds to a close, parents will be flocking to stores to do a record amount of back-to-school shopping, according to recent figures from the National Retail Federation.

According to the NRF, spending for school and college is expected to reach $83.6 billion in 2017, a 10 percent increase from last year’s numbers. Of course, all students will need new supplies for the coming year. But taking care of your childrens’ back-to-school needs shouldn’t have to break the bank either.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford parent with back-to-school shopping to do, check out these five tips to save money on your list this year.

Shop on tax holidays: Every year, the state of Connecticut suspends sales taxes for a week in late summer in order to stimulate the economy and help families get their children the school supplies they’ll need. This year, Connecticut’s tax holiday will take place from August 20th through August 26th. Shopping during this period will help you save at least the six percent sales tax on all purchases in the state.

Build a network with other parents: Your family isn’t the only one looking to cross everything off your shopping list without draining your bank account. Reach out to other families in the community and set up a network so that you can share items as needed—whether that be passed down clothing or school supplies themselves.

Do a scavenger hunt at home: Notebooks, pens, binders, calculators—all the things that your child needs for school, you may already have hidden away around the house. Take an afternoon to scour your closets, home office, musty boxes in the basement and all your junk drawers. You may be surprised to find many of the costly supplies you need already waiting for you!

Check out thrift stores and tag sales: The end of summer is a great time to find bargains at tag sales and thrift stores. As families stock up on new supplies, many will send old clothing and school items to thrift stores, or put on tag sales to get rid of unwanted items. Take some time to look up tag sales in your area and get up early during the weekend to drive around. Swing through your local thrift store while you’re out—you never know what you’ll find.

Set a budget: One of the best ways to save is to set a hard limit for yourself and be disciplined enough to stick to it. It can be difficult when your children are clamoring for the latest tech gadget, but that doesn’t change the limitations with which you must live.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford resident with children heading back to school, we understand that your financial planning doesn’t end once the school year begins. We have a full range of financial services designed to help you maximize your wealth and improve your quality of life regardless of what your circumstances may be. To learn more, check out our Online Learning Center or stop by any office of The Milford Bank today.