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 3

By Pam Reiss

In Part 1 of this series, it was revealed thanks to a recent Gallup poll that a majority of Americans report that they prefer saving their money over spending it. 59 percent of Americans claim to be savers, while 8 in 10 report that they monitor their finances closely. Yet, a large majority of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.

Clearly, there is a discrepancy between how much we think we save and how much we actually do. In order to realign our intentions with our actual saving practices, it is important to take time and develop an honest and thorough saving strategy.

In Part 2, we covered some of the important steps you must take to develop your saving strategy. These included: setting savings benchmarks, calculating your net worth and creating a budget.

In Part 3, we will take a closer look at some of the investment vehicles available from Milford Bank. By blending various types of investments, you can customize a saving strategy that suits your budget and your needs.

Here are just a few ways that you can boost your savings.

Certificates of Deposits: CDs are optimal for short- to medium-term savings goals. CDs earn a slightly higher interest rate than a standard savings account, and won’t require a significant investment. While your money will be untouchable for the duration of the term you select, you can stagger them at various intervals to make sure you always have liquidity.

Individual Retirement Accounts: Also known as an IRA, this is one of the most popular investments for individuals that are putting their savings towards retirement. When you contribute to a traditional IRA, you’ll get a tax deduction for the year, providing you a little bit more financial flexibility while you’re young, without sacrificing your savings. Income taken after you turn 59 ½ are taxed at ordinary income tax rates, but since you’ll be out of the labor force, your income may be taxed at a lower rate than it would if you took the hit during  your prime working years.

Permanent Life Insurance: While the common perception is that life insurance is only in place to provide for families in the event of an untimely death, permanent life insurance distinguishes itself with a saving element. Permanent life insurance offers coverage for life, but it also builds tax-deferred cash value when you pay your premiums. If you need a life insurance policy and don’t want to sacrifice your savings strategy, permanent life insurance may help with both.

Tax Deferred Annuities: An annuity is another form of insurance contract. If you’ve already maxed out your yearly contributions for an IRA or 401(k) account, annuities allow you to continue saving. You won’t be taxed on your contribution, made like an insurance premium payment, until you begin taking money back out upon your retirement date.

To get started building a robust and diverse investment portfolio to maximize your saving strategy, stop by any office of The Milford Bank today. You can also learn more and see other helpful resources at our Online Learning Center.