Why You Should Recycle Your Old Electronics

By Lynn Viesti Berube

Over the past decade, we’ve watched the world’s adoption of new technology grow exponentially, to a point where there are more mobile devices than people on the planet. We’re also seeing the rate at which electronics are replaced increase, driven by affordability, shorter lifespans, and a desire to have the very latest and greatest products.

While the continued investment in new technology may be good for the economy, it’s also created a massive amount of electronic waste (e-waste). Americans alone generated almost 12 million tons of electronic waste in 2014, including more than 150 million cell phones and almost 52,000 computers every year according to the EPA.  But global e-recycling rates are only around 20 percent, which means the majority of these electronics were either incinerated, dumped into massive landfills releasing pollutants into the environment, or collect dust in homes.

Aside from the impact on waste management, the environment, and health issues, recycling electronics provides a rich source of raw materials. The EPA also says that every one million recycled cell phones can produce 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium.  In addition, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 homes per year.

When it’s time to recycle your cell phones or other electronics, first make sure you delete all personal information, followed by a factory reset, after taking out any removable storage cards. You should also remove any batteries, as those should be recycled separately.  You should also make sure you are using a reliable recycling service that certifies data destruction and recycles 100% of the e-waste they collect through legitimate facilities.

Just as recycled electronics can be used for materials for new products, recycled paper also have many applications. The cleaned and processed paper is used to produce many products we use every day, including toilet paper, school writing paper, masking tape, coffee filters, and many more.  Even documents with personal information can be recycled, provided they are shredded first.

Recycling electronics and paper provides a constant stream of resources that have countless uses, helps reduce the amount of junk that piles up in landfills across the globe, and reduces the environmental impact of dumping.

But, it’s hard to change old habits, and one of the key drivers in the rate of e-recycling is providing a convenient way for people to get rid of their old devices. In 2007, Connecticut was one of the first states to adopt an electronics recycling law, making it easier for residents to dispose of their old electronics.

This Saturday, June 23, The Milford Bank will be sponsoring a Shred & Electronics Recycling Event at 119 High Street, Milford, CT, from 10:00am-1:00pm (or until the truck fills up.)  Electronics recycling is free for everyone; document shredding if free for all customers of The Milford Bank, with a $5 fee for everyone else. All funds collected will be donated to Milford Food2Kids.

‘Tis the Season… For Community Cleanup and Major Project Planning

By Mark Gruttadauria

After a long winter that included a 10-day period with three different Nor’Easters hitting the area, it looks like Spring has finally arrived. Lawns are started to become brighter shades of green, trees are starting to bud, and of course, temperatures are on the rise. The change in seasons also signifies the start of the outdoor activities, as youth sports teams are seen practicing across communities and parks and other communal areas once again become daily meeting sites.

For local communities, it means preparing for annual spring cleaning, repairs and maintenance. The to-do list can get quite long after a harsh winter, with many cleaning,  landscaping and gardening jobs taking priority to replenish and revitalize buildings, gardens, planters, water features, playgrounds, and walkways.  The good news is if your community or neighborhood association has done its job, you’ll see a large turnout of residents lending a hand to take care of their communities.

This is also the time to assess larger and longer term needs – especially anything that might require larger capital investment. Larger, higher cost projects require advance planning and a lengthier approval process for funding.  They could include office or garage renovation,  new construction, parking area paving, speed bumps, pool installation, tree removal or planting, or any other capital improvements to make the community more attractive to residents and businesses.

Smart associations understand that, just as regular maintenance (including spring cleanup) help to build a positive daily perception, these larger developments are a long-term these are long-term investments in the community’s future. It’s simple: a cleaner and more modern community is naturally going to have maximum curb appeal.

The catch, though, is that community organizations may not have a lump sum available to fund larger projects, which is why future planning is critical. When big-ticket items are approved, funding plans must also be in place, whether that means local fund raising, business sponsorships, city funding (less and less likely, unless residents are willing to endure tax hikes), or project loans (hopefully from local banks that are happy to work with community organizations).

Whatever the plan, it has to be put in place long before the project breaks ground. So, when your planting flowers, trimming hedges, or sowing grass this spring, take note of any larger community improvement opportunities and bring them to your community association board, so they can consider them early enough to make a real difference.

Many local financial institutions, like The Milford Bank, work closely with community associations and other similar organizations, understanding they, too, have a role to play in supporting these communities. If you are considering a major project that will require funding, be sure to talk to a representative from The Milford Bank representative to find out how we can help.

ABA Announces Consumer Awareness Observance Days for 2018

By Rebecca Tudor

Every year, the American Bankers Association releases an annual calendar including specific dates for consumer awareness observance days. While “Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day” might not have the same ring as Halloween or Independence Day, such observance days can be incredibly useful for taking a moment to assess your own financial status and learn something new about managing your wealth.

This year, we’ll be following the ABA’s calendar closely, tying in articles to provide some extra information for you to celebrate observance days. Pay close attention—we may even be running special events to celebrate some of these festivities at our office locations!

Read on to see the ABA’s schedule for 2018. Each month will provide you different financial perspectives, so we challenge all Milford Bank customers in Milford and Stratford to get creative and show us how they plan to celebrate!

January

1/26: Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day

1/28: Data Privacy Day

1/29-2/2: Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

February

2/26-3/3: America Saves Week

March

3/4-3/10: National Consumer Protection Week

3/20: National Agriculture Day

April

National Financial Literacy Month—celebrated all month

Records and Information Management Month—celebrated all month

4/1: National 1 Cent Day

4/16-4/22: National Health Care Decisions Day

4/17: National Tax Day

4/20: National Teach Children to Save Day

4/29-5/5: National Small Business Week

May

Older Americans Month—celebrated all month

Military Appreciation Month—celebrated all month

June

American Housing Month—celebrated all month

National Internet Safety Month—celebrated all month

6/15—World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

6/28—National Insurance Awareness Day

July

National Make a Difference to Children Month—celebrated all month

August

Back to School

September

College Savings Month—celebrated all month

National Preparedness Month—celebrated all month

9/9—National Grandparents Day

October

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month—celebrated all month

National Crime Prevention Month—celebrated all month

Family Health Month—celebrated all month

10/1-10/5—Customer Service Week

10/1-10/5—Financial Planning Week

10/18—Get Smart About Credit Day

November

Military Family Month—celebrated all month

National Scholarship Month—celebrated all month

National Family Caregiver Month—celebrated all month

December

Identity Theft and Protection Awareness Month

At The Milford Bank, we’re committed to helping you stay focused on your bottom line all year round. So be sure to check out the ABA calendar and find some topics that pique your interest, as we’ll be putting together supplemental educational resources to correspond with the ABA’s observance days throughout 2018.

If you’re interested in learning even more about a particular subject from the calendar, be sure to check out our Online Learning Center too. It’s a wealth of resources designed to help all our customers achieve the best possible financial outcome for their family’s needs and wants. To learn more, click here.

The Savings Spotlight Series, Part 1: First-time Savers

By Chaz Gaines

Every individual has different goals and unique circumstances that help to guide the decisions they make when it comes to their savings strategy. Some people have decades of work ahead of them to steadily sock away money for retirement, while others are looking to gain ground quickly with retirement just a year or two away. Some individuals have large families with children to send off to college, while others are responsible for only themselves.

In the Savings Spotlight series, we’ll take a look at some of the big benchmark moments throughout life. We’ll look at how teens, recent graduates, young families, and those closer to retirement all have varying needs that require a different savings approach.

In Part 1, we’ll provide some savings advice for teenagers who are first-time savers. Just because they’re young, it doesn’t mean that their summer jobs or weekly allowances can’t help them to begin building a robust portfolio to maximize their savings now. If you’re a teen, or have a teen, who is just starting to learn about saving money, here are a few tips to get them started.

Distinguish between short, medium, and long term savings

It’s important for kids to be kids, while also learning fiscal responsibility. As such, there’s nothing wrong with a teen wanting to save up for a concert or snowboard at the same time they’re saving for college, or even retirement. It’s simply about making a clear distinction and sticking to your plan.

Putting savings strategies into context

When it comes to long term saving, it is easy for teens to be too reactionary. For instance, a minor stock market correction could seem like the next Great Depression if you don’t have the benefit and wisdom that comes with watching such fluctuations occur for decades. Teens must remember that, depending on the investment vehicle, the money they set aside today may not be used again for another half century. As such, it’s best to set a strategy and stick to it, rather than continually pull your money in and out of savings to try and time the markets.

Thinking about risk and reward

Risk and reward are inherent in any investment. Finding the most optimal vehicle for your needs is all about striking the right balance between risk and reward. Young investors don’t typically have the assets to make a lot of risky investments. But conversely, they’ve got lots more time to make up ground if a high risk-high reward investment doesn’t pan out. Young investors are in a unique opportunity to use their age to their advantage, but you must assess your risk tolerance carefully first.

Never too young for life insurance

While teenagers might think they’re immortal, certain types of life insurance can offer significant savings upside for teens. Whole or permanent life insurance contracts provide additional savings components, as they accrue cash value when you make premium payments. And because age and health are critical elements in determining the premium costs of a life insurance contract, the younger you are when you lock in your rates with a permanent plan, the cheaper it will be and the earlier you’ll start saving. Not only will you protect yourself and your future family later in life, but you’ll have a big leg up on your cash value investment too.

At The Milford Bank, we have helped countless members of the Milford and Stratford community develop successful savings strategies for their wants and needs. No matter where you might be with your own personal savings strategy, we can help. Stop by any Milford or Stratford location near you, or check out our Online Learning Center to learn more.

And be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll be highlighting savings strategies for recent graduates.

Baby Boomer Retirement Planning, Part 1: The Challenge Ahead

By Sindy Berkowitz

Earlier this year, the Insured Retirement Institute released its annual study covering the Baby Boomer generation and its financial preparedness for retirement. Since the IRI’s first publication in 2011, the number of Americans over the age of 65 has increased over 18 percent. Yet, despite the steady incline of retired Baby Boomers, this year’s study demonstrates that this generation still has yet to find answers to some of the greatest challenges facing Americans in retirement today. In fact, only 23 percent believe they have enough saved to last their entire retirement.

This series will dive deeper into the state of Baby Boomer retirement planning, providing insights into the unique challenges ahead for the average American retiree. In addition, we will offer several ways to help you start putting your planning on the right track to ensure that you and your loved ones can maintain the quality of life you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

In Part 1, we will take a closer look at some of the biggest challenges you’ve got to address in order to ensure that your wealth lasts a lifetime.

Inflation: The cost of everything, from a gallon of milk to real estate, is subject to inflation. On a yearly basis, you might not notice the incremental price increases, but over time, inflation will degrade your buying power. As funding a retirement account is a long-term savings strategy, you must factor inflation into your planning.

Market fluctuations: Investments tethered to the stock market can offer a strong return on investment, but they can also leave you more exposed to risk.  If the markets enter a period of decline as you reach retirement age, you may be forced to find other means to recover.

Medical expenses: Americans are, fortunately, living longer than ever. But that also means that retirees will likely have more medical expenses to account for as well. According to the IRI’s 2017 report, 82 percent of Baby Boomers underestimate the cost of medical expenses to come.

Income gap: Pension participation is not as common as it used to be, and Social Security will only account for a portion of the paycheck you received during your working days. Many Americans don’t realize that assured income streams may be lower than the monthly expenses they’ll see in retirement, setting them up for a gap in wages that must be recovered to maintain their lifestyle.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve helped countless individuals—from their first savings account, to retirement planning, and everything in between. We are ready to work with you to craft a saving strategy that will help you navigated the uncharted waters of retirement.

Be sure to check back next time for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll be discussing some strategies to help you avoid the challenges you face in retirement planning. You can also learn more by checking out our Online Learning Center here.

Talking Dollars, Cents and Sense about Flu Season

By Lynda Mason

Living in New England, Milford and Stratford residents always have something special to look forward to at this time of year. We’ve got brilliant foliage in the Fall and picturesque, snowy landscapes in Winter. But there’s one seasonal event that nobody in New England is looking forward to: flu season.

While most of us consider the flu to be a minor inconvenience, the truth is that this seasonal contagion has a significant part to play for just about every family in the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts influenza on an annual basis. So even if you’ve managed to steer clear, the chances are good that someone in your home will catch it—and it could cost you much more than a few boxes of tissues.

The CDC reports that flu cases cost $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses and $16.3 billion in lost earnings. Children, meanwhile, will miss 32 million days of school each year due to the flu.

Further, the flu leads to tens of thousands of hospitalizations, and worst of all, thousands of deaths caused by flu-like symptoms.

Looking at these figures makes it clear just how devastating the toll of influenza can be. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to ensure that you don’t contract, or spread, the flu this season.

Review the CDC’s updated influenza guidelines: Every year brings a new strain of influenza. This year is expected to be more virulent than the 2016 version, so it is important to stay informed. You can check out the CDC’s 2017-2018 flu season guide here.

Avoid doctor’s offices and hospitals: As a contagious virus, doctors’ offices and hospitals are natural vectors for the flu. There are good odds of encountering someone with the flu, or passing it to others, if you go to these facilities. For that reason, many individuals opt to act preemptively and get flu shots at retail pharmacies before they get sick. If you think you may have the flu, check with your PCP about their telehealth services so that a doctor can diagnose you over a videoconference instead.

Of course, every individual has different needs when it comes to flu shots, and you should consult with your physician to first see if it is the right decision for you or your family.

Practice good health habits: The flu, like any other germ, cannot thrive in a sterile environment. While the CDC does state that flu shots are the single most effective way to prevent flu, it also names a number of health-conscious choices you can make that will help you avoid contracting the virus. This includes: washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, drinking lots of fluids, getting lots of sleep and eating nutritious meals.

At The Milford Bank, we believe that physical health and financial health go hand in hand. Taking care of your body will help you take care of your finances, so when it comes to flu season, we want to make sure our customers don’t end up spending the next few months in bed with a thermometer under their tongue and a ball of tissues in hand. To learn more ways to stay in good shape—both physically and financially—check out our Online Learning Center here.

Money Talks—How You Should, and Shouldn’t, Discuss Your Finances

By Pat White

There are few things in life more uncomfortable than talking about finances. In fact, people are even seven times more likely to discuss their love life with a total stranger than they are their salary. Despite the difficulties we have with communicating about our money, it is nonetheless important to do so.

If you have children, it is imperative that they learn early how to respect and recognize the value of a dollar. Whether they just opened their first checking account or are saving up to buy a car, it’s up to you to guide them. The lessons you impart onto your children now will forge an indelible mark on their financial decision making processes for years to come.

Couples might find this topic a little more difficult. Each partner comes in with habits and strategies of their own already in place. In these cases, it isn’t necessarily a matter of educating the other partner, as with children. Instead, it’s a matter of having open and honest communications about where you stand now, where you want to end up, and how you’ll get there as a couple. This is as true for a middle-aged couple planning for retirement as it is for a couple that has just started dating.

Of course, when having these conversations, you should be mindful of the fact that it can be a touchy subject. In order to make sure the conversation is a productive one, consider the following tips on how you should, and shouldn’t talk about money.

Point the finger at yourself: In a partnership, both parties need to agree to a strategy—and stick to it. But what do you do when your partner strays from the plan? You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to call their attention to it. But we’ve all made mistakes, and they might remind you of that fact. Such conversations can quickly escalate into finger-pointing, justification and hurt feelings. Instead, turn the attention onto yourself. Mention to them how you intend to curb your own overspending, or give an example of how you overcame a similar obstacle in the past. They’ll likely get the point without the feeling of being under attack.

Make it about the math: Numbers don’t lie. They’re objective, rational and provable. So why do difficult conversations about money quickly get overtaken by emotion? It’s when we stray from the numbers that our passion can get the better of us. When talking about money be sure to set aside any other grievances you may harbor and simply stick to the facts at hand.

Finding the middle ground: Currency only works because we all accept the value of money as a society. But that doesn’t exactly mean that everyone values money in the same way either. Some are happy to watch their savings account grow, while others would rather spend their paycheck right away. As such, you can’t assume to have all the answers when talking finances with others.  Appreciate their perspective as you’d hope they would do for you, and always be ready to find a compromise that meets the needs of you and your partner, family or business.

Talk in percentages: Calling attention to your finances can make those in different economic circumstances uncomfortable. In some social circles, it’s even considered a faux pas. In order to have an honest conversation without calling attention to your actual worth, speak in percentages. Rather than saying you’ll invest $20,000 into a Mutual Fund, say that you’re investing 20 percent of your assets instead. It keeps the conversation vague enough to be respectful, while open enough to be engaging and honest.

Of course, at The Milford Bank it’s our job to talk finances. We’ve heard it all before and are always ready to listen. If you’re ready to talk finances, stop by an office location in Milford or Stratford today. You can also find more valuable resources at our Online Learning Center.

 

Equifax Data Breach Hits 143 Million Americans

By Susan Shields

These days, there aren’t many big financial decisions that you can make without a credit report. You’ll need one to buy a home, lease a car, and maybe even land a job. But if you had your credit report put together by Equifax, you may be one of 143 million Americans with personally identifiable information now up for sale on the black market following a data breach at the agency.

According to Equifax, the breach began in mid-May and lasted through July. Among the information obtained by hackers includes peoples’ names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even driver’s license numbers. Additionally, over 200,000 individuals had their credit card numbers stolen.

If you’ve been affected and fail to act, an individual who obtains your records can devastate your life. You may be on the hook for faulty loans, parking tickets, and any other poor choice made by a criminal in your name.

Recently, the FTC put together a set of recommendations to see if you’ve been impacted and, if so, what you can do about it. Read on to check out the steps you need to take to ensure the security of your credit. But be sure not to begin until you’re on a secure Internet connection.

  • First, see if you were affected. You can find out by clicking here.
  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for irregularities.
  • Put a credit freeze on your files—you’ll have to unfreeze them to do another credit report, but it will also be harder for someone else to make a new account in your name.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against freezing your credit, place a fraud alert on your files to warn creditors to verify the identity of anyone who attempts to use your information to secure a line of credit.
  • File your taxes as soon as you get the necessary information so that scammers don’t beat you to the punch and steal your refund.

There’s no arguing that the financial technology at our disposal today can make banking more convenient and cost effective. But we must always remember that emerging technology must be respected and handled with the utmost care. As long as you maintain a strong cybersecurity strategy, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the would-be scammers that seek to take advantage of the unsuspecting today.

To learn more about how you protect your finances, check out our Online Learning Center. You can also stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford for more support.

FTC Warns: Watch Out for Scams When Donating to Hurricane Victims

By Jorge Santiago

Late last month, the historic Hurricane Harvey hit the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana with record-setting rainfalls, leveling entire communities in its path. The aftermath is hard to believe: billions of dollars of property damage and thousands of lives changed forever.

But in these trying times, the good will of the American people is always on full display. You may recall seeing the images of neighbors pulling neighbors out of treacherous flood waters, or first responders helping victims make their way to shelters. And of course, support is coming in from around the country in the form of donations too.

However, con artists often take advantage of disasters like Harvey to try and make a quick buck for themselves. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy several years ago, con artists duped unsuspecting donors out of more than $20 million, depriving the storm’s victims of vital supplies.

In order to help good Samaritans avoid the same pitfall in the aftermath of Harvey, the FTC has released a set of tips to help make sure your good will ends up being put to good use. Let’s take a look at how you can avoid being victimized yourself:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.
  • Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it.
  • Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate—research the organization yourself.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before making your donation.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

If you’re not sure whether or not the group you’re donating to is a legitimate organization, you can follow up through the Better Business Bureau by clicking here.

As a community bank, we at The Milford Bank firmly believe in the importance of lifting up our neighbors in times of need. And in the face of emergencies, the last thing we need are con artists taking advantage of the moment. But don’t be discouraged from lending a hand yourself—by taking the time to follow these tips and do a little research yourself, you’ll be able to help families start their lives all over again.