Three Ways You Can Improve Your Credit Score

By Paul Mulligan

The importance of having good credit cannot be overstated. Having a good credit score—at least 700 on a scale from 300 to 850—can open up a world of possibilities that might otherwise have been unavailable to you. Good credit can help you get approved for a car loan or mortgage. In some cases, employers and landlords will even use credit scores as part of their background checks. A good credit score may also help you qualify for financing and credit cards with lower interest rates.

In general, you’ll find managing your finances and improving your quality of life easier with a first-rate credit score. On the other hand, the lower your credit score drops, the harder time you’ll have qualifying for low interest rates that will help you cut into your debt.

Fortunately, you can establish a good credit score early on and keep it headed in the right direction by following these three steps.

  • Apply for a secured credit card. Building credit is difficult to do without an existing payment history. One of the quickest ways to establish your ability and willingness to pay off debts in a timely manner is by using a credit card. Yet, first you have to qualify for the card, which is also contingent upon a solid history of loan repayment. In this case, a good solution is to procure a secured credit card. The lender assumes no risk with this alternative, as a sum of money equivalent to the total available balance on the card is held in an account and only released after you’ve established a track record for making regular payments.
  • Pay more than the minimum on your credit card(s). Another way to prove that you’re a low-risk customer is to pay down more than the monthly minimum on any of your existing balances. You don’t need to go overboard; paying 10 extra dollars a month can have an impact.
  • Leave repaid debts on your credit history. There is a difference between good and bad debt. If you’ve paid off a loan, don’t make the mistake of trying to erase the evidence that you had debt from your credit score. The fact that you incurred debt and handled it responsibly will help your score.

To learn more about the importance of credit and what you can do to improve your standing, stop by Milford Bank to speak with one of our financial advisors, or check out our Online Learning Center by clicking here.

Stop by The Milford Bank on Your Path to Becoming a Pokemaster

By Rebecca Tudor

Since being launched in early July, the mobile application Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. It took only one week for 10 million users to download the game (a new record) and has now been downloaded over 30 million times.

The odds are, you or someone you know is on the path to becoming a pokemaster themselves. Be sure to stop by The Milford Bank’s locations at some point along your path. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s what you can expect when you stop by:

  • At our downtown office, there are 12 pokestops within a half-mile radius where you can resupply yourself with pokeballs, eggs and other boosters to help you capture the monsters. There are also four pokegyms nearby where you can test your skills battling other players.
  • At our Post Road West office, you’ll find one stop and one gym nearby.
  • In the vicinity around our Devon location, there are two pokestops.
  • There’s a pokegym very close to our Woodmont office.
  • Near our Stratford location, you’ll find three pokestops and a gym.
  • There have even been pokemon spotted inside our Post Road East location.

We’ll even be setting up lures within our locations to draw pokemon into our offices. Be sure to look for updates by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see when a pokemon you still need to collect makes an appearance.

When you stop in to one of our branches, be sure to mention pokemon to one of our friendly representatives and you’ll even receive a free blink light so you can safely hunt after dark as well.

Speaking of safety, be sure to follow these guidelines put out by the Connecticut state police:

  • Don’t play while driving.
  • Don’t trespass on private property (scaling fences, parachuting, tunneling, etc.).
  • Don’t fight or argue with other players.
  • Don’t be lured by a beacon signal into unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Stay alert near roads.
  • Make yourself visible when playing at night.
  • Play with friends or family.

The Milford Bank even has a few employees that moonlight as pokemon trainers that have been happy to provide a few tips on how to improve as a player yourself. But don’t be surprised to receive an invitation to test your skills as a pokemon trainer if you run into one of them.

  • The pokemon eggs you collect will require you to walk a certain distance to make them hatch. Gather up as many eggs as you can before embarking on a long walk to save yourself time and energy.
  • Try to be as accurate as possible when throwing a pokeball out to capture a pokemon. Not only will this increase the likelihood of capture, saving you resources, but you’ll gain extra experience points for accurate tosses, which will help you level up more quickly.
  • When you’re in the heat of battle, wait until your screen starts to flash yellow and then swipe your screen to the right or left and you’ll have a chance to dodge your enemy’s attack.

To find out the nearest office of The Milford Bank to you, or to see how you can follow our social media accounts for the latest Pokemon Go updates, click here.

Back to Basics: Banking 101

by Pam Reiss

Believe it or not, many people get through life without understanding the basic principles of banking. They make their deposits on payday and make withdrawals to pay the bills, and as long as the balance is in the black their finances aren’t given a second thought. But to know the “what” of banking is only half the story—understanding the “why” is equally important. By educating yourself on why certain elements of banking happen the way they do, you can become better equipped to manage your assets responsibly.

Even some of the most basic banking principles, like balancing a checkbook, have gone by the wayside—especially with the growth of online banking. Would you believe that 69 percent of people never balance their checkbook?

So let’s get back to basics and cover a few of the fundamentals of banking that you should understand about your hard earned savings.

Why do you need to balance your checkbook?

While the practice of balancing a checkbook is commonly viewed as a lost practice these days, in fact it is more important than ever. Even though there are strict procedures in place within financial institutions to protect your assets at all times, cases of identity theft and cyberattacks continue to rise. If this happened to you and you haven’t reconciled your account, you might not catch the crime until more damage has been done.

Why are there temporary holds on check deposits?

When you make a checking deposit, a portion of those funds become immediately available for use. But a temporary hold is placed on the remainder. This is important to know so that you can avoid bouncing checks with money that has yet to be transferred to your account. Don’t take it personally, though—the reasoning has nothing to do with your bank’s impression of you. In fact, your bank is simply waiting for the funds to be transferred from the payer’s bank, which can take up to several days. Your financial institution is simply making sure those funds arrive as planned.

Why pay off your whole credit card balance instead of the monthly minimum?

When you’re struggling to make ends meet, the monthly minimum payment option offered by credit card companies might seem enticing. But paying off the bare minimum has a far-reaching impact. Credit scores, for instance, are calculated largely based on the amount of debt that you carry. You also may end up owing more in the long run, as your interest rates could end up creating more debt than you’re paying off each month.

Even if you can’t pay the whole balance in full, making a payment a little above the minimum will help you avoid letting your debt spiral and will demonstrate to your card issuer that you are a responsible customer, giving you more bargaining power in the future when you look to increase your credit line or take out a loan.

For more basic banking principles, stop by a Milford Bank branch location near you or check out our Learning Center online by clicking here.

5 Local Staycation Ideas to Try This Summer

by Mark Attanasio

Summer is the perfect time to plan a getaway. You don’t need to worry about snow holding up your travel plans, or missing days of school. And the weather is ideal for all sorts of outdoor activities.

But if you are finding it tough to get away for a week-long destination vacation, there are still plenty of ways you can take full advantage of all the summer has to offer. A staycation—a vacation during which you stay close to home—is a great alternative, whether you’re tied up at the office or you don’t have a bigger trip in your budget.

The good news is there are tons of nearby, affordable destinations that you and your family can enjoy for the day or a week. Here are five places you can go to have an unforgettable staycation this summer.

  1. Camp out at Hammonasset Beach State Park: You may know Hammonasset for the swimming, but did you know there are also hundreds of camping spots, ranging from cabins to tent sites, located Madison State Park? Enjoy an Oceanside sunset or hike along miles of beautiful Connecticut shoreline. A nightly lot reservation costs as little as $20, making it a very affordable option.
  2. Double up with a daytrip to Mystic: Head up 95 North into Mystic and you’ll find two of the state’s unforgettable destinations: Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium. Located just minutes apart, you can see both in one day if you’re limited for time. At the seaport, you’ll be transported back into the 1800s as you tour the village and old sailing vessels. At the aquarium, you’ll have a chance to see all the unique creatures under the water.
  3. Travel back in time at the Peabody Museum of Natural History: Located at beautiful Yale University in New Haven, the Peabody is the only place you can find mummies and dinosaurs together in the state. Admission prices range from $6 to $18, which means you’ll still have some extra cash left over to head down to Wooster Street later for a pizza.
  4. Get your thrills at Lake Compounce: For the thrill-seeker, check out Lake Compounce in Bristol. Some argue that it is the oldest operating theme park in the country. Regular admission starts at $42, but there are a number of summer-long deals available so keep your eyes peeled. Lake Compounce also hosts events and concerts, so if you’re not a roller coaster enthusiast there are still plenty of fun things to do.
  5. Take a romantic trip along the CT Wine Trail: Connecticut may not have the recognition of Napa Valley, but believe it or not there are 25 wineries and vineyards throughout the state that make up the Connecticut Wine Trail. If you’re looking for a romantic date idea, ditch the highway traffic and drive along the state’s country roads, taking in the sights as you make your way from stop to stop. There are plenty of local inns along the way should you need them.

A fun-filled summer doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There is so much to see in Connecticut that it might even take a few staycations to see everything. To find out more about how you can improve your quality of life without sacrificing your savings, check out our website for more tips, or stop by any of our office locations.

Don’t Miss Our Website’s Hidden Treasures

by Lynn Viesti Berube

If you’ve stopped by one of our office locations and spoken with one of our experienced and friendly employees, you already know about the superior financial services The Milford Bank can provide to help you make the most out of your money. But did you know that there are a variety of resources located on our website for your convenience as well?

In the interest of helping you get the best education possible, we’ve filled our website with financial resources that you can access conveniently anywhere you go. From programs to teach your children about savings, guides to teach you about saving for retirement and everything in between, your Milford Bank experience isn’t complete without checking out all our website has to offer.

In case you’ve missed them, here are some of the hidden treasures placed on our website to help you and your family make smart financial decisions.

Cent$ible Kid$: Teaching your children about the value of saving money can be difficult. That’s why we created the Cent$ible Kid$ program. Your kids can learn how to manage and reinvest their savings with three interactive games right on our site. The program also comes complete with a child-friendly quarterly newsletter full of advice for your kids. As a Cent$ible Kid$ program member, you and your children will also qualify for incentives and special offers from Milford Bank. You can check out the Cent$ible Kid$ program here.

Learning Center: If you’ve got a financial question you need answered but it’s after hours, head to the learning center. You can find answers to your questions easily, whether it’s as simple as explaining how savings bonds work or as complex as planning your estate. There are a dozen unique sections in the learning center that cover a wide variety of topics, each complete with its own downloadable guide. You can reach the Learning Center by clicking here.

Financial Calculators: Are you curious about buying a house and want to quickly figure out the price difference between a 15 and 30 year mortgage? Are you trying to determine whether or not to consolidate your debt? Do you want to know how long it would take you to become a millionaire with your current saving strategy? You can use our financial calculators to get a quick answer to these questions and many more by simply clicking here. Using financial calculators can help provide context to the financial decisions in your life that seem too large to wrap your head around and give you a clear directive on how best to proceed.

At The Milford Bank we want you to have an unforgettable and informative experience with us, whether you’re depositing a check with one of our tellers or skimming over our website on a mobile device from the comfort of home. That’s why we’ve populated our website with these features. But there are even more hidden treasures than those mentioned above. Check out our page here and see what else you can find!

Community Roundup: What’s Going On Around Town?

By Janet Harrison

Here at The Milford Bank, we don’t think of ourselves as just your local financial institution. We don’t think of ourselves as simply bank employees either. The Milford Bank team is a family. We’re staffed by hard-working people just like you with a dedication to being active members of the community, both individually and collectively.

Every year, our employees help to organize, sponsor and participate in some of the community-wide projects that make Milford great—the Milford Moves 5K, Green Fair, or any other local event we can!

We believe in the value of having a strong community and know that creating such a climate is made much easier by building lasting relationships. That’s why we don’t stop building relationships outside of the bank lobby—we work hand in hand with many local charities and non-profits that share in our vision for the Milford area.

Here are a few of the organizations we’re currently working with to build a healthy and prosperous community. Read on to see what they’re all about and what you can find going on in the Milford area over the next few months.

Boys and Girls Club: The Boys and Girls Club has autonomous chapters across the country dedicated to providing boys and girls of all ages a safe facility to learn reach their full potential through programs ranging from athletics, arts, life and career skills. The Milford chapter has summer offerings as well as afterschool programs that will start up in the fall. On August 7, the group will be fundraising with the always exciting annual Walnut Beach Ice Cream Run. You can click here to learn more, register or become a sponsor.

United Way: As one of the largest charitable organizations in the world, United Way has taken up the task of strengthening communities by performing a wide variety of good deeds from building classrooms in the Philippines to providing job training right here at home. United Way of Milford gets involved hosts many local events, but perhaps their largest event of the year will take place September 16—the United Way of Milford’s 15th annual golf tournament, scheduled to take place this year at the Woodbridge Country Club. For registration or contact info, you can contact or call (203) 874-6791.

Sterling House: Built in 1886, the Sterling House has in subsequent years been transformed into a living reminder of our rich local history that now fulfills the role of a community center. Serving over 13,000 local residents each year with affordable social, educational and recreational activities, Sterling House is a vital asset in fostering a positive and healthy community. Stop by on July 23 or August 20 to enjoy open swimming, crafts, music, food and fun for the whole family, or wait for the Sterling Down and Dirty 5K taking place September 10 at Short Beach in Stratford. All proceeds will help support the Sterling House’s community projects.

Be sure to check back in for the next installment of Community Roundup to learn what our other partners around town are up to over the next few months. Also follow Milford Bank on Facebook and Twitter to see more exciting events. You can reach out by checking out our website here.

When Should You Start Saving for Retirement?

by Patty Gallagher

Even if you love your job, you’re probably looking forward to the day you punch your last time card and can begin your retirement. But while you may have a 401K and social security coming your way, the bulk of your retirement stash may still fall on you and your ability to save.

With that said, when should you start saving for retirement?

It is never too soon.

Relying solely on a 401K or social security can be a risky bet. Your 401K is tied to the success of the stock market. Even if your 401K performs well for 30 years, a sudden economic downturn could erase your earnings just when you need them.

Social security, too, is growing increasingly uncertain. According to 2015 findings from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the ratio of workers to SSA beneficiaries is currently at a record low of 2.8. (By comparison, when social security was first rolled out, there were 41 workers supporting the program for every social security recipient.) As the baby boomer generation ages that number is anticipated to continue shrinking, raising questions about the long-term viability of the program as it currently exists.

Both of these pillars of retirement planning can be highly unpredictable. That’s why it is so important to begin planning your retirement savings early.

To ensure a long and happy retirement, here are the two easiest and most impactful things you can do:

Change your spending habits: Increasing your savings for retirement isn’t just about earning as much as you can during your working career. Making slight lifestyle adjustments to alter how you spend that money can have just as large an impact. What is that five-dollar specialty Starbucks drink you get every day worth to you? Over the course of a 40-year work history, it would add up to $73,000—more than enough for a down payment to help you move into a relaxing, beachfront condo.

Diversify your investments: While your 401K can be viewed as a risky investment, it is still a safe harbor for your savings as long as you have other types of investments for balance. Certificates of deposit, savings bonds, annuities and IRAs are other financial tools that can provide safekeeping for your savings. Or, if you’re handy enough to take care of your own repairs, real estate can also be a good place for your money. In an economic downturn, gold and silver prices typically do well by comparison, so having a small supply of precious metals might provide an additional safety net.

To learn more about how you can prepare for a prosperous retirement, stop by any office of The Milford Bank and speak with a financial expert.