Savings Strategies for Milford and Stratford Young Adults

by Cortney Meng

If you just recently turned 18, a world of new possibilities has just opened up to you as a legal adult. You can vote, get a full-time job, rent an apartment, purchase motor vehicles and even real estate. Many of you will soon be paying your way through college as well. The next few years will be a formative time during which you develop many of the habits—good and bad—that will inform your decision-making and long-term financial outcome. To get started on the right foot, here are some useful tips to consider as a young adult.

Research potential career paths: Whether you’re headed to college or entering the job market, you’re likely spending a lot of your time thinking about what kind of work you want to do. Check out the 25 top paying jobs in 2016 here. Many fields offer lucrative positions for individuals with and without college degrees. But the job market is always changing, so it’s important to do your research and find a career you’ll enjoy that also has a bright future.

Set periodic financial benchmarks: Your needs and wants will change rapidly over the next few years. It’s important to set benchmarks so that your savings strategy can be tailored to hit them all. Whether you’re saving to buy a pair of skis, pay for college, buy a car or put a down payment on a home, you have to start somewhere. Pinpoint how much you’ll need every week, month and year to hit your targets and stay committed.

Start a retirement fund: The sooner you open a retirement account, the more lucrative it will be in the long run. While your return on investment will vary depending on how your savings are invested, it is a general rule that the longer your investments have to mature, the more valuable they will be. Many people don’t start thinking about retirement until it’s too late. Get a jump now and save yourself lots of stress down the road.

Establish a credit history: You’ll need a good credit score to enjoy many of the benefits of becoming a legal adult. Getting a credit card with a small balance may be one possibility, but you’ll have to make sure to make all your payments each month and keep your balance below 50 percent. You can also start building credit by making timely monthly payments on other loans or bills you may have.

Purchase whole life insurance: Age and health are two of the most significant factors when determining what your insurance premiums will cost. If you purchase a whole life insurance policy now while you’re young and healthy, that rate will be locked in permanently. In addition, whole life insurance policies have a savings element that will build equity as you make payments. While it is not intended as an investment vehicle, it is an added bonus that is particularly valuable if you start a policy when you’re young.

To learn more about saving as a young adult, check out our online Learning Center here or speak with a Milford Bank representative at a location near you!

Three Ways to Stop Oil Prices From Burning Your Savings

by Patty Gallagher

Just a few weeks ago, unseasonably warm weather and atypically low oil prices had homeowners thinking they might get off the hook with more affordable heating bills this winter. But oil prices are climbing again—just as an Arctic cold front made its way across the country to remind us what a real New England winter feels like.

If you get anxious every time you crank up the thermostat because you’re worried about the cost of heating your home, you’re not alone. Nearly 70 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts—making the prospect of overspending on heating their home a very real struggle.

But there are ways to curb the costs of heating your home. Follow these helpful tips so you can burn oil without burning up your savings at the same time!

Prepay off peak season: Homeowners generally burn significantly less fuel during the summer months. Because of the decreased demand, many oil companies will offer lower rates in order to generate revenue. In many cases, you might be able to prepay and lock in your oil prices for a fraction of what you’re likely to spend if you fill up during the winter. While it may be too late to take advantage this year, speak with your provider during the summer and you may be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars at this time next year.

Invest in a smart thermostat: Once your oil tank is filled, it’s now up to you to heat your home in the most responsible and efficient manner possible. If you forget to turn down the thermostat on an unseasonably warm day, you’re throwing your money away. Investing in a smart thermostat can help you offset the potential for waste. You’ll be able to remotely manage your thermostat settings and control temperatures in different areas of your home. Many of the popular models today can be purchased for less than $200 and may help you save thousands over the years, making smart thermostats one of the easiest and best investments you can make in your home.

Service your furnace: Conducting routine maintenance on your furnace is essential to make sure that it operates at peak efficiency. Some tasks you will likely be able to handle yourself—cleaning your filter and ducts and wrapping your furnace with insulation, for example. Others may require the care of a specialist—checking for leaks and cleaning the furnace itself. It is recommended that you should service your furnace on a yearly basis, so make sure to schedule it as soon as possible to get the most out of your heating system this winter.

To learn about more ways to save your family money, be sure to check out our blog regularly or visit our Online Learning Center here.

Five Winter Projects for Under $250

By Lynn Viesti Berube

According to the American Research Group, the average person will spend $929 buying gifts for everyone on their holiday shopping list this year. This added expense can make planning your budget during the winter months particularly challenging—especially considering the fact that you’ll incur other unique seasonal expenses as well. In order to make sure you can enjoy the holidays without neglecting your other responsibilities, consider the following winter projects you can complete for under $250.

Conduct an energy audit: For just $99, you can have experts come to your home to assess your energy efficiency. Auditors will check for inefficient lighting, poor insulation and other attributes that may lead to higher utility costs. Auditors will also provide services to address inefficiencies, making a home energy audit one of most impactful winter projects you can tackle.

Winterize your car: It is important to take extra precautions with your vehicle during the winter months. You can get an inexpensive set of winter tires for less than $250. You may also want to invest in a set of wiper blades suited for ice removal. Putting together a winter safety kit is also imperative in the event that you become stranded in the cold. Flashlights, batteries, food and blankets are items you may want to include that you may even have around the house already.

Insulate your mechanicals: Much of the energy you consume during the winter goes through your furnace or hot water heater. Did you know that much of the heat that your mechanicals generate is lost because your basement is cold? You can pick up special insulation for as little as $10 at your local supply store and help to minimize your energy bills during the winter months.

DIY recreation: Making your own fun can be challenging during the winter too. Skiing is expensive and many of the other recreations you enjoy may not be possible in the chilly weather. If you’re looking for a creative and cost-effective way to enjoy the weather, why not make snowshoes for you and your family? You can make snowshoes with items you likely already have around the house and will help you get exercise while enjoying the beauty of Connecticut winters. Click here to see for yourself.

Install a smart thermostat: Installing a smart thermostat will help you manage your energy consumption to keep your monthly bills low during the winter. But it will also enable you to make your home more comfortable too. You can remotely turn up the thermostat before your commute home from work to make sure that it’s cozy by the time you arrive. Popular brands like Nest are available for $250, with lesser known models even less costly still.

To learn more ways to save this winter, check out Milford Bank’s Online Learning Center here.

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. 

Savings Tips to Keep Guitar Players from Singing the Blues

by Pete Deleo

In the United States, the birthplace of rock’n’roll, there are nearly 2.5 million guitars sold every year.  And while the average price per instrument is higher than a typical holiday present—$433—guitars can actually be one of the most fiscally responsible gifts that you can give.

Once you’ve made the initial purchase, the musician in your life can enjoy a guitar nonstop with few additional expenses. Unlike more physical pastimes, they’ll be able to continue playing their guitar at any age. Guitar players can provide free entertainment, or even turn their hobby into a side job and make a little extra money too!

But purchasing a guitar should still be considered an investment. And just like any other investment, you’ve got to do your research and learn how to get the most bang for your buck. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to help keep the guitar player in your family from becoming another starving artist singing the blues!

Shopping for a first-time guitar player: If your 16-year old just got their driver’s license you wouldn’t purchase them a Rolls Royce. So why would you spend lots of money on a guitar? There are so many different types of guitars on the market today that finding the one that feels right can take some time. Check your favorite music store for guitars for sale on consignment, look online, or even look for guitars available for rent. That way, you can let your budding musician explore their newfound passion without breaking the bank.

Maintaining your instrument: Once you purchase your guitar you won’t rack up expenses as long as you maintain your instrument properly. A properly maintained guitar can last decades without anything other than the occasional new pair of strings. But if you don’t maintain your instrument, it can fall into disrepair, requiring work that can be more expensive than the guitar cost in the first place! Keep your guitar away from extreme hot or cold weather to avoid warping or cracking. When not in use, loosen the strings so that they put less pressure on the neck of the guitar, which will also help to curtail warping.

Consolidate gear for electric guitarists: Acoustic guitars require nothing more than a few fingers to strum their strings. Electric guitars, on the other hand, will be a little more expensive. You’ll need to purchase amplifiers, PA systems and cords—at the least. If you’re shopping for an electric aficionado, you can help save some extra money by purchasing all-in-one gear. For instance, some acoustic guitars come with electric pick-ups so it’s as if you have two guitars in one. There are also amplifiers that come equipped with PA systems so that you won’t have to purchase both separately.

Follow these tips and by this time next year, you may even have someone to play you some of your favorite holiday tunes! To see more great ways to save money in your daily life, check out Milford Bank’s blog here, our online Learning Center, or stop by a office location near you!

Take Time to Give Back This Holiday Season

by Jorge Santiago

Entering the home stretch of 2016, there are plenty of highlights coming up on the calendar: Thanksgiving, New Years and everything in between. The holidays can be full of excitement as you gather with friends and family to give thanks for the wonderful things in your life. With all the planning that goes into the holidays, they can admittedly be a little stressful too. With everything that you and your family have going on over the last few months of 2016, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the fact that many families in the local community are not as fortunate to be in a position to celebrate this year.

One of the most important things to remember during the holidays is that it is a blessing to have everything you need to enjoy a high quality of life. And it is equally important to lend a helping hand to those who do not whenever you can.

Here are just a few ways you can help contribute to the members of the local community that could use extra support this holiday season.

Feed the hungry: Some of the most unforgettable holiday memories are created around the dinner table. For families that struggle to put food on the table, local food banks provide significant relief. While non-perishables are always appreciated, you can also check with representatives at your local food bank to see which items are in high demand. If you have some spare time, you should even consider assisting food banks when they open their doors to serve families—volunteers are always needed. Check out a list of local food banks here.

Help fight homelessness: Given the chilly weather that sweeps in around the holidays, this time of year is particularly difficult for individuals with no roof over their heads. You don’t need to take out a mortgage to lend a hand—donate to local shelters like Milford’s Beth-El Center. The Beth-El Center does more than give a place to eat and sleep. It also offers support services, advocacy and community education. By partnering with organizations like the Beth-El Center, you can not only help the homeless members of the local community meet their basic needs, but provide a comprehensive strategy to reach a long-term and lasting quality of life.

Play Santa Claus: There’s nothing quite like the face of a child when he or she awakes Christmas morning to and sees what Santa Claus has left under the tree. But for many families struggling to make ends meet, toys are a luxury that is out of reach. In order to make sure the holidays are full of excitement for all children in the local community—regardless of which one they celebrate—donate to a toy drive this year. You can purchase a toy for any age group, boy or girl. Even if you can’t purchase a brand new toy, you can still contribute—simply select a few items from home that your own kids no longer play with. Click here to find a toy drive near you.

The Milford Bank will also be participating in and sponsoring a number of charitable events this holiday season, and throughout the entire year. Be sure to stop by any office location, read our blog and follow us on social media for more news!

There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (break)

by Nila Pathammavong

The saying goes that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. According to a recent report the common phrase is now more appropriate than ever. A pricing analysis conducted by NDP Group found that in many restaurant segments, prices have risen 5 percent in the last 12 months. At the same time, grocery prices have remained relatively stable. As a result, restaurant lunchtime traffic is down 4 percent and the average customer bill is down five percent—exactly the same amount as the average restaurant price hike.

According to NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs, “Price value, especially at lunch, is out of whack. Consumers have cut back because they can’t afford to go out for lunch every day.”

Nonetheless, you shouldn’t be cutting the meal from your diet entirely. So how can you take the bite out of your lunch budget without dealing with hunger pangs throughout the afternoon? Here are several ways that workers can deal with the rising price of lunches.

Bring your lunch from home. Packing your own lunch is a very simple solution to deal with the high cost of restaurant prices. The same sandwich you pick up at Subway will cost a fraction of the price if you make it at home. If you never seem to have enough time to make your lunch in the morning, consider doubling the recipe when you make a dinner the night before. If you have a short commute, you may even be able to stop home to prepare your lunch without taking too much time away from your work.

Plan your lunch around special offers. If you can’t find the time to prepare your own meals, at least stay alert for special discounts at the restaurants surrounding your workplace. There are often coupons in local newspapers or online, as well as in-store offers that may bring a meal that is typically too expensive back into your price range.

Eat family-style with your colleagues. Instead of footing a bill by yourself, bring a few colleagues out for lunch with you, order a few dishes that are easy to share and split the cost between yourselves. Not only will you all be able save a few dollars, but you’ll be able to sample a better variety of fare and get to know your coworkers better at the same time!

Graze throughout the day. The earliest humans were nomadic hunters and gatherers and would graze over the course of a day instead of sitting down for three square meals. You can get back to your ancestral roots by selecting a nutritious and filling snack, such as trail mix, and enjoying a few handfuls over the course of the day.

If the cost of your lunch break is leaving you sick to your stomach, try these cost-effective alternatives to eating out. For more ways to save money in your day to day life check out the Milford Bank blog here.

Three Local Events You Can’t Miss This November

By Celeste Lohrenz

As a community bank, we understand that your success is our success. Without a thriving, engaged and prosperous community around us, we wouldn’t be where we are today. With the holidays approaching, it becomes more important than ever to lend a helping hand. This November, Milford Bank will be putting on a number of events for the local community. Take a closer look and see how you can get involved!

Food 2 Kids fundraiser: For many local children, the only reliable source of food is their school cafeteria. This weekend, outside of school, roughly 180 Milford-area kids will have no food to eat. Milford Bank is challenging the community to help raise funds to put an end to food insecurity. You can make a donation at any of our Milford locations until the end of the year. All participants will be entered into a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card. For raffle details, call us or stop by any Milford Location of The Milford Bank. For weekly updates, follow Milford Bank on social media.

Bite Sized Business Marketing Seminar Series: Milford Bank is also dedicated to providing area business leaders the resources they need to succeed. Beyond providing loans and investment vehicles for businesses, we’ll also be running seminars this month to help you grow your organization. There will be one event coming up this month:

  • November 17: Growing Your Business with LinkedIn, with Susan Catalano, LinkedIn Expert & Managing Partner of LQLaCorte LLC.

In today’s digital economy, understanding how to boost your LinkedIn profile can help your business achieve success. to sign up, please contact Rebecca Tudor at mailto:rtudor@milfordbank.comor 203-783-5789.

Winter Wonderland: The Milford Bank will host “Winter Wonderland” on Thursday, November 25th at the Bank’s Main Office, located on the Milford Green from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. The event, which will take place during Milford’s Annual Lighting of the Trees, will feature various winter-themed activities for children and adults of all ages.

Attendees will be treated to character impersonators for a meet & greet and photos, a train ride, Pokémon lures, carolers, crafts and much more!

To learn about more ways The Milford Bank gives back to the local community this fall, sign up for our monthly newsletter here or stop by location near you.

America Has a Saving Problem: What’s in Your Wallet?

By Matt Kelly

Savings accounts are a vital component of anyone’s financial planning. By putting aside a portion of your earnings into a savings account, you can grow your wealth by taking advantage of interest rates so that you can be assured you’ll have the funds necessary when a need arises. Whether you’re saving up for retirement, planning to put your children through college or even just looking to take a vacation, it isn’t necessarily important why you’re saving—it only matters that you do it.

But based on recent data released by the Saint Louis Federal Reserve, Americans are having a hard time amassing money in their savings accounts. According to the Fed, 70 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 set aside in savings. In addition, the Fed found that Americans’ personal savings rate is only 5.7 percent. While that number has remained steady over the past few years, it is only half the amount saved by Americans 50 years ago.

Financial experts have made a number of recommendations to help people protect themselves during periods of financial turbulence. Individuals should be saving between 10 and 15 percent of their income. Additionally, it is prudent to have six months’ worth of your annual salary to avoid a pitfall in the event of job loss or other unforeseen expenses.

With the holidays coming up, these statistics are particularly alarming. According to a recent Gallup poll, the average American plans on spending $785 on Christmas gifts this year. That means a majority of Americans are planning to deplete their savings accounts in order to get gifts for friends and family members.

But what happens when your car needs a new transmission? What happens if your furnace dies in the middle of winter? While these are worst-case scenarios, your financial strategy should follow the mantra, “hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

And while it may seem impossible to begin accumulating more money in your savings account, there are a number of simple steps you can take to start heading in the right direction.

For starters, stop by a Milford Bank branch location and speak with a financial advisor. An experienced financial planner will be able to help you isolate the problematic areas of your budgeting and offer additional advice on managing any existing debt you may currently owe.

There are also numerous budgeting tools available for free today that can help you accumulate data and track your progress in real-time, meaning you can get a more comprehensive understanding of your spending habits that might not otherwise be easy to spot on a day-by-day basis.

If you can’t seem to stay disciplined enough to stop pulling money from your savings account, you may also want to consider an alternative investment vehicle. Certificates of deposit, for instance, are ideal. You can select a term limit that best reflects your needs. During that time period you will not be able to withdraw your funds, but will enjoy high yield interest rates upon completion of the term.

To learn more, stop by any office of The Milford Bank or check out our online Learning Center here.

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Fuel Efficiency

By Pam Reiss

According to the United States Department of Energy, Americans will drive 3.17 trillion miles this year. And whether a majority of the miles on your odometer were accrued by your daily commute or a cross-country road trip, the fact remains the same—you’ll be putting a substantial portion of your paycheck into your fuel tank.

Of course, there are ways around the expense—mass transportation is available in many areas. You can opt to purchase an electric vehicle. You can carpool to reduce your costs or even call a cab. But for many Americans, getting behind the wheel is simply a fact of life. Don’t worry though—if you don’t have the means or desire to trade in your vehicle for a more efficient model, there are still plenty of simple steps you can take to improve your fuel efficiency and drastically decrease your annual gasoline costs.

Here are five simple steps you can take to improve your fuel efficiency.

  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated. You don’t need a puncture hole to lose tire pressure. Variations in weather, as well as typical wear and tear, can cause them to lose 1 PSI every month. If your tires aren’t properly inflated your car has to work harder to propel itself, consuming more fuel in the process.
  • Conduct routine preventive maintenance. If you treat your car well, you will likely be rewarded in kind. Don’t put off your regular oil changes, change your air filters and make sure you replenish depleted spark plugs.
  • Keep your gas gauge in the sweet spot. Fuel efficiency is at its lowest when you have less than a quarter tank of gas. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should keep it full either. Gasoline adds weight to your car—10 gallons is roughly equivalent to 60 pounds. If you keep your tank halfway full, you can reach peak performance.
  • Be conservative with heat and air conditioning. Have you ever blasted your heat to warm up your car, gotten too hot and switched over to air conditioning to balance the temperature? If so, you’re greatly reducing your fuel efficiency. Take advantage of nice weather and roll down your windows instead. Or if you’re worried about the cold, wear an extra layer until you get comfortable.
  • Keep clutter to a minimum. Inspect the contents of your vehicle. Do you have items that you leave in your car on a regular basis out of convenience, even if you don’t use them? Every additional pound that adds to the weight of your vehicle is reducing your fuel efficiency. Schedule some time every week to clear the clutter out of your vehicle and the engine won’t have to work as hard to carry you down the road.

To learn more simple ways to reduce wasteful spending in your life, stop by a Milford Bank branch location to speak with a financial advisor, or check out more helpful hints at our online Learning Center here.