The Savings Spotlight Series, Part 3: Mid-Career Planning

By Chaz Gaines

In the Savings Spotlight Series, we’ve made the case that there are numerous stepping stones throughout our lives that lead us down the path to financial well being. At every point, you’ll need to take a different approach. A teenager, for instance, might be saving for their first car. An individual nearing retirement is going to have a drastically different goal, and method, for reaching their savings objective.

Already in this series, we’ve provided useful savings tips for both first-time banking customers and recent college graduates. In Part 3 we’re going to fast forward a decade or two along our path to retirement, focusing in on the savings needs of individuals in the middle of their careers.

Maximize employer benefits: Most of the businesses that offer retirement benefits will no longer contribute after you’ve left the company. Now, nearing the height of your earning power, you should be doing all you can with the remainder of your working years to take advantage—especially if your employer will match your contributions.

Balance retirement and college funds: Many individuals at this stage in their lives must reconcile the need to have a forward-thinking retirement-oriented saving strategy while simultaneously helping their children get started on their own path. It can be challenging, but your focus when crafting a budget and savings strategy should balance both.

Bolster your emergency account: Many individuals at this stage in their working life have been at their jobs for twenty years or more—making them feel quite secure. But sometimes, business decisions are out of our control, and many families get blindsided by that false sense of security. Even if you expect success, a failure to keep an emergency cash account funded could put your family at risk. Many experts believe you should have at least six to nine months salary readily available in case of emergency.

Expect the unexpected: Just like it’s important to plan for emergencies throughout your life, it’s important to plan for the end of your life too. If you were to pass away today, your grieving family would still have to keep paying the mortgage, fund college accounts and plan for retirement—all without your income. While this is a sensitive matter in which thinking about money should be secondary, it’s nonetheless a reality that your family will have to cope with. Securing life insurance will provide the coverage your family will need in the event that the worst comes to pass. Some policies, like whole life insurance, even have features to assist with your savings goals.

Shift investments to meet changing goals: Every investment vehicle offers a unique benefit. So if your financial goals are shifting, shouldn’t your savings strategy? When we’re young, we have more ability to rebound from a risky investment. We also have more time to let a certain, conservative investment grow. Now, in the middle of your working life, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on whether the vehicle that got you this far is going to be the vehicle that gets you all the way to the finish line, or if it’s time to trade in.

To learn more about crafting the best saving strategy for you and the needs of your family, check out our Online Learning Center or stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Stratford or Milford today.

FDIC Reports 10 Scams Targeting Banking Customers- Part 1

By Dave Wall

The holiday season is upon us once more in Milford and Stratford, and we’d be willing to bet that you’re one of the millions of Americans that has already helped to make the 2017 holiday shopping season a record-setter. But in the flurry of transactions and the general chaos that is the holiday season, it can be difficult to stick to financial security best practices.

However, according to the FDIC, it’s now more important than ever.

In a recent report, the FDIC issued a list of 10 scams being perpetrated today by con-artists looking to empty bank accounts, steal financial data and ruin much more than your holiday.

In this series, we’ll take a deeper look at the list so that you can stay on alert through the holidays and throughout the rest of the year, too.

  1. Government Imposter Frauds: If you get a call, an email or letter from a government agency requesting that you make an immediate payment or provide personally identifiable information (PII) on the spot, you’re the target of a government imposter. Government agencies will never ask for PII or a payment in the moment.
  2. Debt Collection Scams: Criminals will often pose as debt collectors or law enforcement officers in an attempt to shake down unsuspecting individuals who may already be having a tough time dealing with debt. If the individual cannot produce records, or threatens violence or arrest, you will know that it is not a legitimate claim.
  3. Fraudulent Job Offers: Background checks are part of many legitimate job offers. But some con artists are now using online classified ads to draw in job seekers with cryptic promises of employment. They’ll request personal information to conduct what they claim is a background check, when in reality they’re using the information to steal your identity. You’ll have to do your due diligence when looking for employers, so be sure to gather all the facts about a company before you comply with a background check.
  4. Phishing Emails: Phishing emails use spoofing software to mimic the email address of your contacts. They will then disseminate an email—typically with malware embedded within a link in the body of the text—in the hopes that someone will click the attachment. This will then give the hacker remote access to your device, helping them to find your financial records and PII.
  5. Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue: There are plenty of homeowners out there having a hard time making ends meet. But if you’re approached by a loan broker or consultant with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. They’ll promise you anything in exchange for a down payment or personal information, but in many cases victims end up getting foreclosed on anyway. In other cases, victims are even tricked into signing away ownership of their property to the scammer.

To learn more about how to follow financial security best practices, stop by a Milford Bank office location in Milford or Stratford, or check out our Online Learning Center here. And be sure to keep watch for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll be delving into the FDIC’s remaining 5 scams targeting banking customers today.

Three Reasons Milford Bank is Grateful for You This Thanksgiving

By Susan L. Shields, President & CEO

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? At The Milford Bank, we’re thankful for you—our customers. All year long, we get the privilege of seeing you stop in our office locations, take part in community events with your families, and watch as you build your businesses up from the ground floor with pride. So, in the spirit of the holiday, we wanted to take a brief moment to tell you why we’re so grateful to share the Milford and Stratford communities with you.

You’re community minded: You’ve always got the option to do your banking with one of the big corporations, but you, like us, understand the importance of doing your business locally. By supporting us, we’ve been able to continue supporting your businesses and families for nearly two centuries. For that, we are grateful.

Not only that, but you believe in supporting local charities and events, too. Whether you’re stopping by one for a guest lecture on a lunch break or participating in our annual 5K, our customers love to stay active.

Always striving to learn more: Not only are our customers always staying active in the community, but they’re also voracious to learn more. That’s why we provide a wealth of resources online, and always relish the questions we’re asked when you stop in a branch location. By continually seeking out financial education, you’re taking the necessary steps to provide for your family for years to come. And for that, we are thankful.

Innovation oriented: Though our customers love supporting a community bank, we’re thankful that our customers still love all the innovation and new technology available in the financial sector today. Your innovative spirit has emboldened us to continually seek out new ways to provide a superior customer service, whether through our mobile banking app, our website, or in our branches.

Everyone has something to be thankful for this holiday season, and for The Milford Bank team, we know that it’s our customers. So thanks to all of you in the Milford and Stratford areas, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Milford Bank and Food 2 Kids Team Up To End Child Hunger

By Celeste Lohrenz

When sitting around the table looking over piles of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and pies this Thanksgiving, it can be easy to forget that there are some in this world who aren’t so fortunate. In fact, child hunger is still a considerable issue in communities like Milford and Stratford today, as well as in most other communities all around the world.

But did you know that for only $7.00, you can help feed a child suffering from hunger in your community for a weekend? For just $280, you can provide weekend meals for a child for an entire school year. Weekends are particularly difficult for these children, as they don’t have access to their school’s cafeteria.

With this in mind, The Milford Bank has teamed up with Milford Food 2 Kids, a local organization dedicated to ending child hunger. Through the end of November, we will be raising donations at all of our office locations in Milford, with all contributions going to shore up the food gap for our community’s food insecure kids.

Donations collected will fund bags of kid-friendly food—enough to last six meals—and will be handed out to children identified by partnering schools’ teachers and counselors as being the most in need.

At The Milford Bank, we’re dedicated to improving the lives of all members of our community, and strive to partner with others that cherish the spirit of giving. To learn more about ways that you can get involved with us in your community, click 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.

New Poll Reflects Americans’ Preferred Long-Term Investment Strategies

By Patty Gallagher

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to long-term investment planning. Every individual, and every family, has different needs and wants, expenses and assets. As such, it can be difficult to get the right context to help you make an informed decision that will suit your needs. And while you cannot make your financial decisions based on what works well for others, it certainly helps to understand how the rest of the community is choosing to plan for the long haul.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford resident thinking about where your assets would best serve your long-term savings strategy, consider the results from a recent Gallup poll which ranked Americans’ favored long-term investment vehicles.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers:

Real Estate: According to the Gallup poll, Americans seem to have regained their confidence in the real estate market following the Great Recession of 2008. In the past six years, the percentage of poll respondents choosing real estate as their preferred long-term investment has climbed from 19 to 34 percent—making it the most popular of all poll choices.

Stocks and Mutual Funds: Similarly, consumer confidence in the stock market appears to have recovered from the Great Recession as well. Today, 26 percent of survey respondents cited that their go-to method for long-term savings was the stock market, up from just 17 percent in 2011.

Gold: Oftentimes, people will invest in precious metals like gold or silver when the stock market is turbulent and unpredictable. Such was the case following the Great Recession—in 2011, gold was by far the most popular long-term investment vehicle for survey respondents, with 34 percent making it their go-to option. But as the economy has rebounded, that number is now down to just 18 percent.

Savings Accounts and CDs: While the return on your investment won’t always be as high as with other vehicles, savings accounts and CDs present a conservative and guaranteed rate of return. Interest rates, however, have remained flat in the subsequent years following the Great Recession, which has resulted in little change in the popularity of these types of investments. In 2011, 14 percent of Gallup poll respondents cited savings accounts and CDs as their preferred long-term savings option. Today, that number still sits at 13 percent, largely unchanged.

Bonds: While all the other survey options mentioned in the Gallup poll all gained in favorability (besides gold), the one investment vehicle which lost ground was bonds. Bonds were more popular at the height of the Great Recession during less certain times, but now that the economy has leveled off, bonds have become less of a priority for a majority of Americans.

If you’re still uncertain about where your long-term savings should go, you’re not alone. Clearly, Americans’ saving preferences are varied and subject to change as their lives do. But there’s no reason to go it alone: The Milford Bank has been helping families save for their futures for generations. If you’re a Milford or Stratford resident looking to grow your retirement account, stop by an office location in your area today. You can also learn more by checking out our Online Learning Center.

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.