Is Generation Z About to Transform the Real Estate Market?

By Paul Mulligan

After spending years living in the shadow of the baby boomer generation, Millennials have now taken center stage. As a demographic, Millennials represent the largest percentage of the labor force, and recently reached a record high in spending power.

But Generation Z is hot on the heels of Millennials, and based on findings from a recent National Association of Realtors report, this unique group is poised to transform the real estate market. But what is so different about Generation Z? How will their characteristics shape real estate? And what will this mean for members of this maturing generation from Milford and Stratford that will be looking to become first time homebuyers in the next five to 10 years?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key findings from this report:

Co-habitation is on the rise: David Reiss is a professor of law and research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. In the National Association of Realtors report, he wrote, “Since the financial crisis there has been an increase in multigenerational households, driven in large part by financial limitations and insecurity as well as by marital status and educational attainment. Young adults are more likely to live at their parent’s home in recent years than they have been for more than a century.”

What does this mean for the real estate market? You can expect to see greater interest in multi-unit dwellings as Generation Z reaches maturity. Similarly, it will not be uncommon for aging Baby Boomers to purchase larger homes with their children in mind, rather than downsize as has traditionally been the case.

Digital services inform architectural design: Generation Z, much like their Millennial predecessors, are all about technology. They can manage most of their lives directly from their phones, and this factor may disrupt the new construction market. For instance, food delivery services that can bring fresh groceries and ready-to-cook meals right to your door greatly minimize the need for a refrigerator. As these types of services become commonplace, it is likely that builders will have to make unique design decisions reflective of changing needs, wants and expectations.

Generation Z will flock to passive homes: 72 percent of respondents aged 15 to 20 stated that they’d be willing to pay more for products or services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. As it pertains to real estate, younger buyers are looking for environmentally-friendly properties. Passive homes, oriented around solar power, filtered fresh air and high-efficiency insulation, are expected to be in high demand.

Walkable neighborhoods: Pushed out of cities by high prices and disinterested in the calm of the suburbs, Generation Z is expected to flock to neighborhoods just outside of major urban centers. These emerging population centers are going to be developed into “walkable neighborhoods”, which have all the necessary conveniences within several blocks.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford resident getting ready to buy your first home, call, click, or stop by any office of The Milford Bank today. Our experienced personnel will guide you through the process, from pre-approval to closing, ensuring that you find the right home for your family. You can also get more great educational resources on our Online Learning Center here.

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!

New Gallup Poll Provides Key Lessons for College Students

By Patty Gallagher

With the school year almost over, many high school seniors in Milford and Stratford have already made the decision on if, and where, they’re going to attend college. While that decision itself can seem incredibly complex, it is really just the beginning of a long and challenging process that promises many more difficult decisions to come.

When it comes to making difficult decisions, one of the best things that an inexperienced person can do is look at the examples set by those before them. And based on findings from a recent Gallup poll, there are plenty of impediments that future students can avoid if they heed the advice of their predecessors.

The Gallup poll surveyed 90,000 Americans with college degrees. According to the results, 51 percent of respondents had regrets about one aspect of their educational experience. The most common response had to do with the field of study chosen by survey respondents. 36 percent stated that, if they could repeat their educational experience all over again, they would change their field of study.

28 percent, meanwhile, had second thoughts about the institution they selected to attend. 12 percent of graduates had regrets about the type of degree they completed, while over half of respondents said that at least one of the three choices applied to them.

There are many reasons to select a degree, a major and an institution. But students have to understand that they can’t think about this decision as just an 18-year old. They’ve also got to ask themselves whether or not their future self would make the same decision.

Clearly, a majority of American graduates can attest that the choices you make now will have a lasting impact longer after you’ve graduated. As such, it is critical that students take a comprehensive approach to making these selections. They need to strike a balance between what they hope to achieve, and what they can reasonably afford without succumbing to overwhelming student debts.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford parent with a student heading to college this fall, be sure to speak with your child about their vision for the next four years and beyond. It can also be helpful to leverage resources at your child’s school, including counselors and teachers.

You also stand to benefit from stopping by any office of The Milford Bank. Our friendly and experienced staff can provide a wealth of educational resources designed to help you and your child take the guesswork out of the college process. By putting in the work to educate yourself on the college process, you’ll be able to put your education to work for you without regrets.

Check back on our blog from time to time to catch the latest tips and tricks for getting the most out of your education, or learn more by checking out free resources on our Online Learning Center.

 

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.

Beware of These Hidden Costs When Buying a Home

by JoAnn Sabas

Over the past few years, you’ve saved up enough money to make a down payment on a piece of real estate. You’ve prequalified for a mortgage and you’re confident that you can make your monthly payments without any problem—but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to buy.

When purchasing a home, it is important to understand that your mortgage payment is only the first in a long list of new expenses. A failure to account for hidden costs may leave you in a difficult financial position down the road. So before you take the next step, take some time to assess the additional expenses for which you may soon become accountable.

Here are a few examples to help get you started.

Inspections: Before you purchase a piece of property, be sure to solicit the services of a home inspector. A qualified, experienced inspector will be able to diagnose a range of problematic conditions that will help you in several ways. You can use these findings to back out of a sale and renegotiate your offer. Inspections will generally cost around $500 or more, however, so while you might save in the long run, you must be prepared to absorb the immediate expense.

Appliances: Just because the sellers have a beautiful washer/dryer set, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll inherit it when you purchase the home. Be sure to have a checklist for all the household items you expect to have, and figure out which items the sellers intend to leave behind. Oftentimes, sellers are willing to negotiate and may include items with the purchase, helping you to avoid having to buy all new appliances in the process.

Association Fees: If you’re buying a condominium, townhouse or apartment, it is likely that the real estate will be less expensive than a single family house. As such, your monthly mortgage payments will probably be lower too. However, many of these properties are part of an association which will require additional monthly payments to cover maintenance and improvements for common items like paving, plowing or additional benefits. In some cases, association fees can be even higher than mortgage payments themselves.

Closing costs: Once you’ve received the title for your new piece of property, you’ll need to pay fees to your realtor and the lawyer responsible for handling your closing. Closing costs can be incurred by the buyer or seller, though, so they can be used during your negotiations. But you’d be well advised to play it safe and make sure you have the funds necessary to cover closing costs.

It is easy to let emotions get the best of you during the house hunting process. If you find a home you love and it’s within your price range, you may be tempted to act quickly. But some homes are hiding their true expense, so it is vital that you account for all possible costs before making a decision. To learn more about finding the right home for your lifestyle, call or stop by to speak with one of our Mortgage Specialists today!

Milford, Stratford Residents: Be Wary of Identity Theft this Tax Season

By Pam Reiss

There’s nothing easy about doing your taxes. Filling out all those forms and hunting for old receipts is enough to drive anybody crazy. As if you didn’t have enough to concern yourself with during this important time of the year, you can now add another potential peril to the list: tax return fraud.

Tax return fraud is a new form of identity theft that has skyrocketed in recent years. Essentially, the con is pulled off by individuals using your information to file a false return, hoping that the IRS will send them your hard-earned refund. While you’d think that the IRS would be savvy enough to catch these criminals in the act, the agency has been overwhelmed by the frequency of fraudulent returns in recent years.

As of March 5, 2016, the IRS had identified over 42,000 tax returns with roughly $227 million claimed in fraudulent refunds. The IRS has prevented the issuance of an additional $180 million as well. While the agency does have advanced fraud detection capabilities, the evidence clearly demonstrates that they can’t catch everyone. And while the IRS will work with victims to rectify cases of identity theft, it may not be quick enough for someone who was relying on a speedy refund.

So what can you do to reduce your risk? The IRS has provided four simple measures you can take to avoid being victimized:

  • For digital interactions use strong passwords and security software with firewalls and anti-virus protection
  • Learn how to recognize phishing emails and fraudulent messages from thieves posing as representatives from banks, credit card companies and the IRS
  • Do not click links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails
  • Keep your personal data and records, including your Social Security card, in a secure location

Many individuals don’t realize they’ve been victimized until it is too late. But there are some warning signs that you should keep watch for to catch cases of fraud more quickly.

  • More than one tax return filed using your Social Security number
  • You owe additional taxes, have refunds offset or have collection actions taken against you for a year you didn’t file a tax return
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work
  • The IRS sends you a letter saying it has identified a suspicious return using your social security number

Unfortunately, consumers today cannot sit back idly and enjoy the convenient features of modern banking. They must also be vigilant and fiscally responsible. It may not be fair, but falling victim to identity theft can be incredibly detrimental for the victims themselves. Learn more ways to protect yourself by checking out our Online Learning Center or stopping by The Milford Bank location near you.

Savings Strategies for Milford, Stratford Residents Nearing 30

by Cortney Meng

Milford and Stratford residents: do you have a 30th birthday coming up? If so, take a moment to reflect on where you were and what you were doing just 10 years ago. A lot has changed, no? In fact, your twenties can be one of the most transformative decades of your life. By the time you reach 30, you may be entrenched in a career, thinking about getting married, buying a home or even having children. Maybe you’ve already done all of the above!

As such, it is important that you reevaluate your savings strategy to reflect your changing lifestyle as you approach your 30th birthday.

If you’re looking to overhaul your savings strategy, here are a few good places to start.

Start a retirement account: If you haven’t started saving for retirement, you’re not alone. In fact, 57 percent of millennials have yet to start saving for retirement. But the fact remains that the sooner you start, the easier time you’ll have reaching your goals. If your company offers a 401(k), start taking advantage of the benefit if you are financially able to do so. You might also want to diversify by establishing an IRA or investing in a mutual fund too.

Buy life insurance: At 20, you might not have had anyone depending on you. But the game often changes at 30. You might be responsible for your business, your partner, a child, a mortgage or other loans. A big part of that responsibility is making sure your loved ones are taken care of if the worst should happen to you. At 30, you’re still likely young and healthy enough to qualify for an inexpensive life insurance policy. Some forms of insurance, like permanent life and annuities, double as investment vehicles, making them an important part of your savings strategy as you enter your 30’s.

Improve your credit score: A great credit score will open up many doors to you in your 30’s. You’ll be able to secure a larger line of credit with lower interest rates if you can demonstrate that you’ve been historically responsible with your spending. Speak with a credit agency or financial expert to see how you might be able to boost your score, so that you’ll be in a position of strength when you’re ready for the big financial decisions that many of us make in our 30’s.

Take a calculated risk: It is generally considered a best practice to be conservative with your savings when you’re young. Many years of safe, steady earnings can leave you poised to have a great retirement in a few decades. But another benefit of youth is that you have more time to bounce back if an investment doesn’t pan out. Consider taking a small, discretionary sum of money and check out a company or product that you’re passionate about. It might not pan out, but you never know—you might invest in the next Amazon or Apple, too.

If you’re ready to take a serious look at your savings strategy as you approach your 30’s, stop by any office of The Milford Bank branch near you to speak with an experienced financial advisor today. You can also learn more by checking out our Online Learning Center.

Five New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Finances in 2017

by Pam Reiss

New Year’s Eve is about much more than watching the ball drop in Times Square or popping open a bottle of champagne. It’s about reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future. This time of reflection leads millions of Americans every year to make resolutions about how they can improve themselves. If you’re looking for a way to improve yourself in 2017, why not take a look at your finances? Here are five resolutions you can make that can drastically improve your finances and quality of life in the year to come.

Focus on your physical health: Your physical health and your financial health are inextricably linked. The CDC reports that 86 percent of our nation’s healthcare costs are attributed to chronic diseases. Many, like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, can be prevented with a good diet and plenty of exercise.

Cut an unnecessary expense: The cup of coffee you pick up at Dunkin Donuts every morning during your ride to work might seem like an insignificant expense at the register. But spending $3 on a cup of coffee every day over the course of the year ends up costing you $1095. Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, there’s probably something comparable in your own life. If so, is there a way you can do it cheaper, or cut it out of your budget entirely?

Diversify your nest egg: Diversifying your savings helps you maximize growth and protect your nest egg at the same time. While not all investment vehicles may suit your needs, sit down with a financial professional and figure out how to expand your portfolio effectively. Certificates of deposit, IRAs and money market funds are just a few options offered by The Milford Bank. You don’t need to try everything all at once, but if you add one new dimension to your portfolio every year, you can set yourself up for a very comfortable retirement in no time.

Tackle a home improvement project: Have you been putting off a renovation for years? Make 2017 the year that you finally make it happen. Home improvements can increase your property value, making them great investments—especially if you’re thinking about selling your home in the near future. For larger project, speak to a Milford Bank representative about affordable and flexible home equity or home improvement loans to get started.

Procure life insurance to protect your family: There are many families in this country without adequate life insurance coverage. Many more have no life insurance at all. Dwelling on our mortality may not be a popular pastime, and that may be why many individuals are misinformed about the importance of life insurance. Make 2017 the year that you finally have the uncomfortable conversation so that you and your loved ones can have peace of mind for every New Year to come.

To learn more about how you can make the most out of your New Year’s resolutions, check out our online Learning Center here or stop by any location of The Milford Bank and speak with one of our representatives today!

The Milford Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. 

Financial Independence is the New Retirement

When thinking about the path to retirement, we tend to assume a typical trajectory: go to school, get a job and then work tirelessly for the next 40 years. But in reality, there are many different paths to the same destination. Today, many people are opting to find alternate ways to retirement, opting out of the traditional decades-long grind.

Putting an early end to the punching of time cards used to be considered the luxury of Powerball winners. But these days, there are many options for people with the desire to cash out early.

For instance, many people are opting to change the language of work altogether. Instead of going into retirement, many are seeking instead to achieve financial independence—being in a position of having sufficient personal wealth to live without having to actively work for basic necessities.

So how can you achieve financial independence? Here are a few ways to get started.

Financial Independence is the New Retirement

By Mark Attanasio

When thinking about the path to retirement, we tend to assume a typical trajectory: go to school, get a job and then work tirelessly for the next 40 years. But in reality, there are many different paths to the same destination. Today, many people are opting to find alternate ways to retirement, opting out of the traditional decades-long grind.

Putting an early end to the punching of time cards used to be considered the luxury of Powerball winners. But these days, there are many options for people with the desire to cash out early.

For instance, many people are opting to change the language of work altogether. Instead of going into retirement, many are seeking instead to achieve financial independence—being in a position of having sufficient personal wealth to live without having to actively work for basic necessities.

So how can you achieve financial independence? Here are a few ways to get started.

Put your money to work for you: You may need to work tirelessly early on to amass enough money to start investing. But once you do, make investments that will provide you with supplemental income. For instance, if you opt to invest in stocks, aim for companies that pay shareholder dividends. If you’re going to invest in real-estate, consider a multi-family unit or in-law apartment that you can rent to cover your own mortgage.

If you’re interested in owning your own home but aren’t interested in making it part of your investment strategy, consider joining the tiny house movement. Ranging from 100-400 square feet, tiny houses provide many of the creature comforts of a home—but on a much smaller scale. Ideal for those who simply need a place to hang their hat at the end of a busy day, tiny houses are optimal for anyone willing to go to unusual lengths to achieve financial independence.

Transform passion projects into side jobs: How would you spend your time if you didn’t have to work? If you love to create art, there’s likely a market for your work. If you like to travel, consider becoming a contributor for a travel blog. No matter what your passion project happens to be, there’s likely a way you can capitalize on the hobbies you’re already enjoying.

Live below your means: This is ultimately the lynchpin of financial independence. No matter how much income you have coming in, you’ve got to be willing to keep growing your savings. You never know when an unexpected expense might arise. If you remain disciplined about your spending, you won’t have to start filling out job applications every time you need to bring your car into the mechanic or buy a new hot water heater.

To set out on your own path to financial independence, stop in to a Milford Bank branch location and speak with one of our team members about setting up a strategy that will work for you.