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.

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.

 

Execute a Successful Saving Strategy, Part 2

By Pam Reiss

As previously discussed in Part 1, a recent Gallup poll indicates that a majority of Americans today claim that they prefer saving over spending. However, the facts also suggest that a majority of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. Even more alarming, a majority of people never get out of debt in their lifetimes.

If you want to enjoy the many benefits of financial freedom in your lifetime, it is important to make a distinction between the desire to save, and actually executing a successful saving strategy. In this series, we will be providing helpful hints and steps that you can take to ensure that your desire to save can be turned into a solid financial plan that will maximize your wealth and your family’s quality of life for the long haul.

In Part 2, we will provide some basic first steps that you should take as you seek to employ a successful saving strategy. These important steps will help you make an accurate self-assessment about where you are along your path to financial freedom, as well as pinpoint simple ways that you can increase your savings right away.

Calculate your net worth: The balance in your savings account doesn’t tell the entire story. In order to get the most accurate idea about whether your saving strategy is working, you should be focused more on net worth. Net worth is calculated by subtracting your expenses (mortgages, loans, bills, credit card balances, etc.) from your assets (equity built in your home, your car, cash, stocks, prized possessions, or any other items of value).

Why is this important? It doesn’t matter how much stuff you’ve got if you’re paying for it all with money you don’t have. Someone with a $500,000 house and a 2017 Jeep Patriot may in fact have a lower net worth than someone with a $75,000 condo and a 1997 Honda Accord. Calculating your net worth will provide you the most honest and accurate report of your true saving prowess.

Set saving benchmarks: Of course, all savings strategies are relative and must be tailored to meet your specific needs. For instance, a single individual will have a much different need than a family with four children. Ask yourself: Where do you see yourself in a year, five years, ten years, and beyond? Determining what you want to do in life will help you figure out what you need to save to reach your goal.

Create a budget: Now that you have a better sense of your current standing, as well as where you’d like to go, you can focus in on setting aside the money you’ll need to reach your goal. That might require making adjustments in other areas of your life, so it is critical that you make a budget for yourself. The first items in your ledger should be the necessary expenses you’ve got to pay each month, like bills and groceries. From there, include the necessary funds for your savings account that you’ve determined will help you reach your long-term financial goals. Prioritize your savings, otherwise you may realize you’ve frivolously spent too much at the end of the month.

Of course, for more useful information on crafting a successful saving strategy, stop by any office of The Milford Bank near you, check out our Online Learning Center, or keep checking back on our blog for the next parts of this series.

Execute a Successful Saving Strategy, Part 1

By Pam Reiss

According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans report that they prefer saving money to spending it. The poll found that 59 percent of Americans claim to prefer saving, while only 38 percent stated that they preferred to spend.

Additionally, the Gallup findings indicate that 8 out of 10 individuals are watching their spending very closely, while those who spend more claim that it is only due to temporary conditions.

The desirability of saving appears to be directly correlated with the Great Recession, as the number of American savers has continued to trend upward since 2008. However, additional research suggests that despite the best intentions of American savers, a majority are finding it difficult to actually execute a successful saving strategy.

In fact, nearly 70 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, according to a 2016 report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. And this isn’t just a Millennial problem. Figures from the credit bureau Experian found that 73 percent of consumers had outstanding debt when they passed away, carrying an average total balance of $61,554.

The startling difference between these figures makes one thing certain: even if you claim to be concerned with putting money into your savings account, it is likely that your follow-through leaves something to be desired.

Failing to conduct an honest self-evaluation of your saving strategy can have serious and lasting consequences. You may find yourself short on cash as you reach retirement age, or struggle to find the funds you thought you’d have when looking to buy a home, send a child to college or pay for medical care.

Of course, it can be difficult to conduct a self-evaluation and know for sure whether your financial strategy is truly working in the best interests of you and your family.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve been providing our customers in the Milford and Stratford area with sound financial advice for nearly 150 years. We’ve helped growing families and empowered local businesses to flourish. We have a broad portfolio of financial services to help you reach all your goals. Most importantly, we have dedicated and experienced personnel, ready to sit down with you to ensure that your savings strategy is fully aligned with your needs and tailored to maximize the value of your assets.

In this series, we’ll take a hard look at why Americans are struggling to put aside money, even if they think they’re doing a good job already. Be sure to check our blog again for future installments, and if you’d like to learn more about how to deploy a successful saving plan in the meantime, check out our Online Learning Center here.

 

The Milford Bank: 145 Years of Service to Milford, Stratford Residents

By Celeste Lohrenz

In the early 1870’s, Milford did not have a banking institution. In order for local residents to deposit their savings, they had to go to banks in surrounding cities. Then, a group of Milford citizens banded together and applied to the State for a charter. The act of incorporation was passed during the 1872 General Assembly and was approved by the Governor on June 26, 1872, bringing The Milford Bank to life.

In the subsequent 145 years, we have helped countless families, neighborhoods and businesses in the Milford and Stratford area to maximize their wealth and improve their quality of life. And while our mission to help the local community will never change, plenty of things certainly have changed since we first opened our doors 145 years ago.

Here’s a closer look at a few notable moments that have all come to pass since Milford Bank came to town in 1872.

1872: Ulysses S. Grant, a commanding General during the Civil War, won his re-election bid for President of the United States.

1875: The Specie Payment Resumption Act was passed. This legislation called for United States Treasury notes to be backed by gold.

1875: The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was passed, guaranteeing African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations, transportation and to prohibit exclusion from jury service.

1879: Thomas Edison invents the incandescent light bulb.

1903: The first World Series, a battle between the Boston Americans and Pittsburg Pirates, was played this year. Boston took five out of nine to capture the title. In addition, the Wright brothers made history by flying the world’s first successful airplane in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1913: In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified, creating the income tax.

1914: World War 1 begins in 1914, following the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The war will continue on for five years.

1919: The 19th amendment is ratified, granting all American women the right to vote.

1929: The stock markets nosedive in 1929, beginning what will later be known as the Great Depression.

1935: The Social Security Administration is formed following the enactment of the Social Security Act. This act has stood the test of time since, enabling for provisioning of benefits for retirement age individuals.

1939: World War 2 begins, and lasts for another 6 years.

1969: In a giant leap for Mankind, NASA lands the first men on the moon in 1969. This fulfilled the vision of President John Kennedy from back in 1961, when he announced his intention to accomplish the feat before the end of the decade.

2008: Following the collapse of the housing market and bailouts of lenders Fannie and Freddie Mac, the United States spins into what will be dubbed as the Great Recession—the worst financial crisis to hit the country since the Great Depression.

As you can see, The Milford Bank has seen a lot in the 145 years since our founding. We’ve been right alongside the rest of the Milford and Stratford community, through the good and the bad. To learn more about our history, click here.

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!

Saving Big on Summer Travel, Part 1: Planning Your Trip

By Susan Wolfe

As the last of the winter snow melts and temperatures start to creep up, you may catch yourself at your desk staring out your window on warm, sunny spring days. If you’ve got children, they’re likely doing the same thing, simply counting down the days until the end of the school year.

Don’t worry, though. You’re not alone. It’s been a long, cold winter for all Milford and Stratford residents. And after months of hibernation, your family is long overdue for a summertime getaway.

But if you’re hesitant to break out a map and plan your next trip because you’re worried about finances, consider the following tips that may be able to help you plan a cost-effective summer vacation. In Part 1 of this series, we will cover steps you can take to save money as you plan your trip.

Selecting a destination: When it comes to planning a cost-effective vacation, it’s all about location. Did you know that the cost of living in Tennessee, for instance, is half of what it costs to live in Connecticut? By looking around the country, you’ll see great disparities in cost of living that will allow you to either save some extra cash, or include other events on your trip that might otherwise be out of your price range.

Look for group rates: If you have friends or family members that you like to travel with, try to coordinate with them while you’re planning your trip. Many hotels, airlines and entertainment groups will offer discounted group rates that will enable you to try new experiences without having to pay top dollar.

Be spontaneous: While you’ll generally pay more for airfare if you wait to book your flight, you can often get discounted prices if you wait until the last minute and are willing to be flexible about where you travel. If you have the flexibility, pack your suitcase and head to the airport to see what standby flights they’re offering. You can get a great last minute deal and possibly end up somewhere you might otherwise not have thought about.

Combine business with pleasure: If you travel for business, you can often get reimbursements or tax deductions for your expenses. If you can combine your leisure trip with a little bit of business, you may be eligible to recover some of your costs come next tax season (contact your tax advisor for details).

Consider avoiding hotel chains: While popular hotel chains are convenient and deliver a consistent and reliable experience, you’ll certainly pay a premium for it. Even a modest hotel room may cost you over $100 a day. There are numerous other options out there that may be more affordable and unique. Homesharing is one option. You may also want to research hostels or campsites too. Depending on your lifestyle and the type of trip you’re looking for, some of these alternative lodging options may help you have a truly unique and cost-effective trip.

Be sure to check out our Online Learning Center for more great ways to get more bang for your buck when making financial decisions. Also check back next week for the next installment of this series.

For Milford and Stratford residents looking for more consultation on their finances, stop by any office of The Milford Bank.