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.

Milford, Stratford Business Owners: Now is the Time to Act on Cybersecurity

By Dave Wall

If you’re a business owner in the Milford or Stratford area, it would be easy to think that you’re not at risk of succumbing to a cyberattack. After all, it’s often government agencies and global enterprises that continue to make the headlines whenever a hacker strikes. But just because you’re not in the spotlight, it doesn’t mean you’re not under the microscope either.

In fact, hackers seem more intent on going after small businesses than their larger counterparts—and it’s only getting worse. According to recent reports, malware incidents at U.S.-based, small- and medium-sized businesses, increased by 165 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2017.

Succumbing to a cyberattack can have serious implications. You may lose access to your own data, inadvertently leak customer information and disrupt your day-to-day responsibilities, cutting into your bottom line. Many small businesses cannot afford to deal with the repercussions of a cyberattack, and 60 percent of small organizations go out of business within six months of being victimized.

Of course, small businesses don’t always have the resources or bandwidth needed to take complete control over network security, which is what makes them appealing targets in the first place.

Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in computer sciences or an unlimited budget in order to shore up security concerns. Here are a few helpful hints for small businesses in the Milford or Stratford area that have yet to address cybersecurity issues in their organizations.

Educate your employees: Imagine this: all your employees receive an email that appears to have been sent out by you. There’s a link in the body of the email, so they are naturally inclined to click it. But the email was actually sent by a bad actor who hacked your account, and the link contains malware that will cripple your network. It only takes one person to leave your network vulnerable, so you must think of your employees as your front line in the fight against cyberattacks. Take the time to educate them on safe Internet use and you’ll be able to drastically cut down on your exposure.

Consult with a managed services provider: Small business leaders have to wear many hats. But few business owners have the training, or the time, to act as their own Information Technology (IT) Department. Managed services providers can offer customized security solutions tailored to the needs of your business. They’ll oversee your network activity around the clock, keeping your company safe while you focus on your own responsibilities.

Have a preparedness plan in place: You cannot afford to start thinking about your preparedness plan until after an attack has occurred. You’ve got to be prepared in advance. Duplicate your vital data in the event that you lose access. Put operational processes in place to alert customers and keep your doors open. In addition, you should start to budget for cybersecurity needs now. Put aside a little money every month so that if you are hit, you can absorb the blow as you stabilize and return to business as usual.

With cyberthreats on the rise, security is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for small businesses.

For more resources to ensure that your business can enjoy sustainable long-term success, stop by any office of The Milford Bank branch location today.

Survey Reveals Most Americans Have Financial Regrets

by Patty Gallagher

Hey, Milford and Stratford residents—have you ever done something you regret with your money? Maybe there’s an expensive pair of shoes collecting dust in the corner of your closet. Or maybe you had an investment go belly up. Whatever your example is, remember this: you’re not alone.

In a new survey from Bankrate, it was revealed that 4 in 5 Americans has some form of financial regret. What were the most commonly reported causes for regret?

  1. Retirement Savings: Not saving enough for retirement was the leading financial regret of the 1,000 Bankrate survey respondents. 22 percent of those individuals cited not saving enough for a comfortable retirement.
  2. Emergency Savings: Similarly, a large percentage of people claimed they regretted saving enough for emergencies. At 16 percent, this was the second most common financial regret.
  3. Credit card debt: 9 percent of survey respondents claimed that they had regrets about the balance of their credit card. These individuals report carrying more credit card debt than their budgets can bare.
  4. Student loan debt: Student loan debt continues to be a national issue, which is clearly reflected in this survey. 9 percent of respondents claimed that they regretted the amount of debt they had to take on in order to get their college degree.
  5. Children’s education: While graduates continue to grapple with student loan debt, many parents are feeling regret themselves. 8 percent of respondents had regrets about the amount that they had saved for their child’s education.
  6. Buying a home: 2 percent of survey respondents claimed that they had regrets about buying a house that was too expensive for their budget.
  7. Something else: This is where the expensive shoes and bad investments come into play. 7 percent of survey respondents had regrets about a wide variety of other financial decisions they’d made.
  8. No regrets: One out of five respondents claimed that they had no financial regrets whatsoever. And while it is noble to live without regrets, the previous examples clearly demonstrate that financial decisions cannot be taken so lightly. The choices you make today will impact you for a lifetime. If you have a family, your financial regrets can seep over across generations. Take the example of education savings, for instance. If more parents had done a better job saving for their child’s education, it is likely that fewer graduates would report regrets about student loan debt.

But if you have your own financial regret, it is important not to let it define you. Every difficult financial situation can be addressed and improved with the right strategy and network of support behind you. At The Milford Bank, we offer a diverse portfolio of financial services to help you make the smartest decisions with your money, as well as an experienced team ready to help you meet your financial challenges head on. You can also learn more on our Online Learning Center, or stop by a branch location in Milford or Stratford today!

Saving Big on Summer Travel, Part 2: Driving or Flying

By Susan Wolfe

You might think that taking a vacation is all fun and games, but the truth is that travel is big business too. In fact, travel and tourism accounts for 10 percent of the global GDP, with travelers around the globe spending $7.6 trillion on an annual basis.

In this series, we’re looking at all the ways that you can tweak your travel plans to make sure that your vacation doesn’t turn into a financial disaster. Making slight adjustments will help you stretch your dollars further, letting you get a little extra relaxation out of your vacation.

In Part 1, we discussed how to save money as you plan your trip. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll be taking a look at some great ways to save as you hit the road, whether you’re hopping a flight or getting behind the wheel yourself.

Road tripping: The road trip is an American tradition, and we’ve got thousands of beautiful miles and fifty states to explore. But if you’re getting behind the wheel to reach your destination, here are a few suggestions to help you get there with a little extra cash in your pocket.

  • Monitor your tire pressure: It will help to have a fuel-efficient car if you’re driving across the country. But if your tires are even slightly underinflated, you’re giving up a few miles per gallon before you even pull out of the garage.
  • Load up on non-perishable snacks: Food is another huge expense on vacation. If you’re driving, you have an advantage over airborne travelers—you can pack lots of food with you. This way you can avoid those costly pit stops on the side of the highway.
  • Alternatives to hotels: If you’re going to have to drive for a few days to reach your destination, your costs can easily add up if you stay in a hotel every night. Instead, plot out campsites, hostels or other low-cost alternatives to hotels. After all, you’re essentially just paying for a place to rest your head for the night before you take off again.

Flying: While it can be a vacation in itself to take a road trip, not everyone can take that much time away from their daily lives. But flying comes with its own set of expenses that you must take care to avoid. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Assess your baggage: Baggage fees have become a standard part of airfare. But depending on where you’re going, and for how long, you may be able to avoid it. In other cases, you’ll be better off paying the fees. For instance, if you’re traveling somewhere that the weather is highly variable, you might spend more for a heavy suitcase. But it will still be cheaper than packing light and having to pick up extra clothes when you get there.
  • Bundle your flights with other services: If you’re flying, you will probably need a car when you land. If you plan ahead, you can actually save considerably if you pay for your flight, your car and your hotel simultaneously.
  • Take advantage of special deals: If you’re looking for a new credit card, many come with offers that include airline miles. But you don’t have to open a credit card to benefit. There are many businesses affiliated with airlines that you may be able to leverage to get airline miles to reduce the price of your fare.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford resident gearing up for a summer vacation, be sure to check back with us for more great tips to save money on your travels. You can also learn many great ways to grow your wealth by checking out our Online Learning Center, or by stopping by any office of The Milford Bank today!

Beware of These Common Types of Fraud, Part 2

By Lynn Viesti Berube

As discussed in Part 1 of this series, the stakes for maintaining your privacy and financial security have never been higher. With the influx of connected devices that we now use in our daily lives, a failure to adhere to strict security practices can leave you vulnerable to a number of types of fraud. According to one study from Javelin Strategy, over 13 million people were the victims of fraud last year, with combined losses reaching $15 billion.

In Part 2 of this series, we will cover even more types of fraud that you should be watching out for. If you know what types of fraud are out there, it will greatly increase your chances of becoming a victim yourself.

Man-in-the-middle attack: These are attacks in which a hacker intercepts communications between two parties, altering them to serve their purposes.

Pharming: Hackers can use malware to route you to their own websites, which are often built to look exactly like another organization’s page. These dummy websites are particularly dangerous if you are tricked into entering personal information in order to sign in.

Phishing: Hackers can spoof the email addresses of people from your contact list. When they send you an email, it will look like it is coming from a friend, family member or coworker. But instead, it has been embedded with a virus or software that will give them access into your computer or device.

Ransomware: Ransomware is software that gives a hacker access to your computer and lets them target proprietary data. The hacker will then encrypt the data so that you can’t gain access to it, and will demand a ransom before restoring your access.

Scareware: Scareware is a program that displays an on-screen alert that you may be exposed to a virus or spyware. The user is then prompted to purchase antivirus protection that is actually malware itself.

Skimming: The magnetic strip on the back of your debit or credit card can be used by fraudsters to steal your information and access your financial records. Skimming devices can be secretly installed on card-reading devices, such as ATM machines, gas pumps and checkout counters.

Smishing: Smishing is like phishing. The difference is that instead of receiving a questionable email, the malware comes to you via text message. By responding to the text, you may inadvertently download malware onto your device without ever knowing its there.

Your data and your financial security are inextricably linked. As such, it is critical that you educate yourself about all the ways that criminals are looking to take advantage of people that don’t adhere to tight cybersecurity principles. To learn more about how to protect your assets, check out our Online Learning Center here or stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford.

Join Milford Bank and Play Dodgeball for a Cause

by Jorge Santiago

At The Milford Bank, we’ve been providing financial services since 1872. But as a community bank, we also know that our responsibility to the community extends beyond the walls of our office locations. That’s why we partner with other organizations in the Milford and Stratford community to help improve the lives of the individuals that make our towns run.

One such organization is the Boys and Girls Club of Milford, which is putting on its annual dodgeball tournament on Friday, March 31st. Here’s what you need to know:

Tournament details

  • There will be two divisions to choose from depending on your preferred style of play—recreational and competitive
  • The tournament is double-elimination
  • There is a $300 fee per team
  • Teams can roster between 6 and 10 players
  • Each participant must be at least 16 years of age

 

If you want to lend a hand but don’t want to play, there are still plenty of ways that you can help out. Sponsoring the tournament is a great way for your business to get some extra exposure. You can learn about sponsorship opportunities here. Or, if you’d prefer to simply volunteer your time, click here to see how you can get involved.

This year’s tournament will be held at Goooal Sports in Stratford. Doors will open at 6:00 PM and the tournament will begin at 6:30. However, this is one of the most popular events of the year, so expect that space will be limited. To ensure that you get a chance to play dodgeball for a good cause, be sure to register early.

You can find more ways to help us get involved in the Milford and Stratford community by clicking here.

Five Higher Ed Facts All Milford, Stratford Parents Should Know

By Patty Gallagher

If you’re a Milford or Stratford resident with a child in high school, it is likely that your family has already started to have conversations about higher education. Deciding whether or not your child should go to college is a difficult one, with many factors that inform the choice. And if your child is going to college, you’ve got even more challenging decisions to make. How will you pay tuition? What kind of school is right for your child? What kind of courses will your child take?

As you discuss the topic of higher education with your family and your children, keep the following five facts in mind.

  1. The average 2016 graduate leaves school with an average student loan debt of $37,172.
    If you’re planning on using student loans to pay for your child’s tuition, it is important to understand the amount of debt that you, or your child, will need to start paying off once they graduate 
  2. Students with a bachelor’s degree earn 66 percent more over their lifetime than high school graduates.
    Though student loan debt can be discouraging in the short-term, studies show that the expense of a degree is a worthwhile investment in the long term.
  3. Only one-third of students attending a public college graduate on-time.
    Developing a strategy to keep your child on track to graduate on-time is essential. Whether they’re earning a two or four year degree, finishing within those terms will keep you from incurring expenses just to cover a few remaining course credits. In addition, it means your child will enter the job market, and eventually have more experience, than others their age who needed more time to graduate.
  4. The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for one semester at a four year public college in 2016 was $15,280.
    Attending college in another state can be an incredibly enriching experience. But you’ll certainly pay a premium. If your child has their heart set on an out-of-state school but you can’t figure out how to make ends meet financially, consider sending your child to a cost-effective community college in the same state for a year or two first. Your child will be able to take care of basic course requirements at less cost, while gaining the in-state eligibility they need to make their dream school a reality.
  5. Roughly $100 million in scholarship funding goes unused on a yearly basis.
    Many families think that college is too expensive. In some cases, they’re right. But in many others, they simply haven’t exhausted all their resources yet. There are millions of dollars awarded to students through scholarships and grants every year, and another $100 million goes unclaimed every year. 

 

If your family is starting to have the higher education conversation, be sure to gather all the facts to make the most informed decision. If you live in the Milford or Stratford area, stop by any office of The Milford Bank and we can help you move forward in a way that sets your family, and your loved ones, up for success. You can also learn more at our Online Learning Center here.

Milford, Stratford Business Leaders: Reserve a Spot at Upcoming Bite-Size Marketing Seminars

By Rebecca Tudor

Title: Milford, Stratford Business Leaders: Reserve a Spot at Upcoming Bite-Size Marketing Seminars

As a community bank, we believe that providing service to local businesses doesn’t end after we’ve helped to secure the financial services that set you on a path to success. It’s just as important to stay engaged with our customers and provide educational resources to the community.

That’s why we started the Bite-Sized Business Marketing Seminar series. The seminar series is led by local business owners, for local business owners, to help you reach your financial goals. We’re even providing lunch!

There are currently four seminars scheduled for the coming weeks:

Harness the Power of Social Media & Email with Constant Contact—March 2, 2017

In this seminar, Jocelyn Murray, the owner of Marketing and Event Resources LLC, will introduce attendees to Constant Contact, an all-in-one tool for increasing sales and donations through better marketing and online engagement.

Develop a Marketing Plan that Produces Awesome Results—March 16, 2017

Robert C. Kademian, the owner of ROI Business Coach, will break down his five step strategy for developing an impactful marketing strategy.

Increasing Your Website’s Google Presence—March 30, 2017

In today’s digital economy, there’s no better commercial real estate than the front page of a Google search. Steve Hozan, the co-founder and digital marketing consultant for The Web Studio, will take a look behind the curtain of Google’s search engine algorithms in this lecture, giving participants helpful SEO tips along the way.

Tips for Taking Better Head Shot Photographs—April 13, 2017

In the social media age, your head shot is a critical first impression for potential customers and business partners. Jesse Thompson, the store manager at Milford Photo, will lead this seminar to help you take professional head shots using a camera or a smartphone. You’ll get great tips on how to use lighting, composition and proper posing to make you look your best.

Each event in the Bite-Sized Business Marketing Seminar Series is completely free and open to the public, but be sure to register early because space is limited. You can register online here.

Take Time to Give Back This Holiday Season

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!

Three Local Events You Can’t Miss This November

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:rtudor@milfordbank.comor 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.