Plinqit Makes Saving as Easy as Using an App

By Tina Mason,

Customer Solutions Specialist,

Post Road East Office

Saving is not always easy. Just ask the 58% of Americans who have less than $1,000 saved (73% have less than $5,000 in savings). Financial experts suggest having an emergency fund of 6-12 months of expenses, in addition to saving for retirement, which should be around 15% of your annual income. Of course, that doesn’t factor in saving for additional large expenses, like vacations, college tuition, home improvement projects, among others.

So, when you put it all together, saving close to 20% of your income can help provide a comfortable level of financial security. But, according to another survey, 69% of Americans set aside 10% or less, and only 15% are saving more than 15%.

There are several reasons behind the lack of savings, including expenses being too high, income levels not being high enough, and debt – as well as simply not having gotten to it. It’s very possible that some expenses can be reduced by doing a spending analysis, which would help those with high expenses or lower incomes. But, the simple fact is it’s just not easy to save.

There’s good news, though. We’re living in a tech-driven world, and innovative companies are creating apps and services to solve just about every problem, including fintechs and the saving dilemma.

The Milford Bank has partnered with one of those fintechs, Plinqit, to help customers save. The key is that it’s simple to set up and simple to use. Customers simply set up a Plinqit account, connect it to their checking account, set up to five savings goals and a schedule for depositing small amounts into their Plinqit accounts.

Because we want to help customers succeed, The Milford Bank and Plinqit incentivize users to become more financially literate and to follow through on their savings goals. By watching educational and financial videos through the app, users can earn savings rewards that are added to their Plinqit accounts. Users can also be rewarded for successfully reaching their savings goals – but there are penalties for withdrawing their funds early.

How much users are able to save is completely up to them. Each user has to set reasonable savings goals based on their own budgets and expenses. The Milford Bank and Plinqit are here to help keep those savings goals on track. The app works; Plinqit users have saved more than half-a-million dollars since the app was launched.

If you’re serious about saving money for any reason, The Milford Bank is here to help. Anyone can set up an account on their own and start saving, but if you want advice on your personal finance needs, please visit one of our offices and speak to one of our financial specialists.

Making the Most of Your Paycheck in 2020

By Lynda Mason,

Group Manager, Post Road East Office; Woodmont Office

Now that we’ve started a new year – a new decade, in fact – many of you may have made New Year’s Resolutions to be more financially responsible, to spend a little less and save a little more.  It’s a great approach to your finances, and it’s never a bad idea to take a close look at how you’re spending your income.  But, if you didn’t make a resolution, that’s OK – only 8% of resolutions are kept, and 80% fail within the first month.

So, if you did set one and want to make sure you are able to keep it, or if you simply want to take a fresh approach to your personal finances this year, there’s no time like the present.  The key is having specific, attainable goals and a strategy for success that is both challenging and feasible.  With that in mind, here are a few tips that will help you adjust your strategy for saving this year – and keep your New Year’s personal finance resolution if you made one.

Define your goals

The first step when you’re looking to make financial changes is to know what you’re hoping to achieve.  It’s hard to evaluate how well you’re doing if you simply say, “I am going to be more responsible with spending.”  There are many reasons to reduce spending and increase savings – you need to identify your objectives in order to project how much you need to reduce your spending.  A few examples include:

  • Pay off credit card debt or mortgages
  • Build retirement savings
  • Start a college fund
  • Save for down payment on a home or car
  • Start a rainy day/emergency fund
  • Plan for other major expenses (remodel, wedding, etc.)

Knowing what you are saving for provides motivation for sticking to your budget.  Once you have decided what your goals are, you can set target amounts to start budgeting.  You can always adjust these, but having a target in mind will help you understand what is truly attainable and what is likely to cause you to fail.  In addition, if you are saving for known upcoming expenses, you can figure out exactly how much you need to save to reach the required amount by your deadline.

Understand your spending

The only way to evaluate how well – or poorly – you are handling your finances is to understand how you’re spending your income, what you’re spending it on, and how much you are saving.  Track all your spending for a month to understand exactly where you paycheck is going – and if you are spending more than you earn.

Set a budget

Once you know how you have been spending your money, you can define a budget based on your spending habits and savings targets.  At a bare minimum, you should know your fixed expenses (mortgage or rent, car payment, utility bill, cell phone, etc.), along with how much you want to put towards your new goals.  This will allow you to define how much discretionary spending power you have for eating out, going to movies, etc.  Remember, you can always be flexible within your monthly budgets.  For instance, if you want to see two new movies, but have only allocated for one, you might look to spend less on dinners out for balance.

Eliminate bad habits

Take a look at your monthly activity and identify the things you do that could be costing you more than necessary.  Are you paying full price for clothing?  Are you eating out several times a week?  Are you buying expensive Pay-per-View events every month?  Are often late with your bill payments?  There are many poor financial habits that could be costing you more than you realize.  Take a look at these and look for ways to eliminate or at least reduce them.

Elevate good habits

There are many ways to reduce spending simply by using the tools available to you – most of them on your mobile devices, which you take everywhere.  Loyalty programs offer member savings and allow you to collect points towards various purchases.  Find retailers you like and try to stick with them.  Don’t underestimate the power of coupons and sales – there’s no reason to spend more on something than you need to.  This may also mean learning to be flexible with what you buy and when. One of the many Online Services the Milford Bank provides is the ability to create bill reminders to allow you to set preferences for receiving e-mail notifications reminding you that your bill has arrived and/or your bill needs to be paid. This tool enables you to control the entire bill payment life cycle. The Bank has also recently partnered up with Plinqit, a simple savings tool that allows you to set up and customize your savings goal and have Plinqit help you set aside a small amount of money regularly, on a schedule you choose. You can also earn money with Plinqit by watching videos and reading educational articles to learn more about money and saving.

There’s no simple answer for saving money.  It all comes down to what your priorities are.  As you evaluate your own priorities, if you need advice on how to save or where to put the money you’re saving, consult your bank’s financial advisors, who can help determine the best kids of accounts for  your specific needs.  Then, it’s all up to you.

Why Digital is an Advantage for Local Banking

It’s no secret that the world has gone digital. So much of everything we do each day happens online with the mobile devices that seem to be attached to our appendages. Mobile and desktop apps and online portals have changed the way we manage our lives, including our finances.

With the Millennial generation now the largest single population group in the workforce, the majority of spenders and financial decision-makers will soon be digital natives. They have grown up in the smartphone era and expect to be able to do just about everything digitally, including banking.

According to a recent report, 69% of Millennials use their laptops or PCs at least once a week to access bank accounts, but 92% do the same thing on their smartphones, and more than half engage in banking activities on their mobile devices more than five times a week.

Interestingly, Gen X is actually ahead of the Millennial generation in terms of laptop banking (82% at least once a week), and not far behind when it comes to smartphones (83% at least once per week and 47% more than five time a week).

The Milford Bank has always prided ourselves on the personal service we deliver and the community and human connections we are able to create. While on the surface it would appear that national banking brands would have an advantage with digital banking, we are happy to be provided the opportunity to build on our relationships we have had with our customers by offering a variety of digital products and services that can be correctly tailored to our customers’ needs and wants. Some of the advantages of this digital shift are:

Expanded customer base – Digital banking allows us to expand our customer bases. Because most people don’t need to visit branches very frequently, offering digital banking products can showcase our brand to new customers. Customers are comfortable doing most of their banking using digital tools, and are within a reasonable distance from a branch to be able to go when they need to.

Quality customer experience – The Milford Bank prides itself on delivering superior customer service. While it may seem digital banking could detract from that experience, it’s actually quite the opposite. Because customers expect to be able to do their banking online, giving them the tools to do it is part of a great experience.

Improved customer engagement – Digital tools create opportunities for increased engagement between The Milford Bank and its customers. That means that we now have more ways to let our customers know about the tools that are available for their banking needs – especially new ones, like partnering with P2P payment networks, and to emphasize the flexibility the combination of local and digital banking offers.

Perpetual availability – One of the great benefits of digital banking is its 24/7/365 availability. While offices are closed for holidays, the Internet stays open for business, which means you can access your accounts, pay bills, and send money to your kids in college any time at all – from anywhere.

The bottom line is banking is going digital, and it is important for The Milford Bank to give our customers a diverse variety of tools to choose how they want to bank. As banking competition has moved online, The Milford Bank cherishes the opportunity to blend the personalized experience a customer gets when they visit one of our offices with the ease and convenience of our digital product offerings. Customers like feeling that they matter and it is important for us to provide quality products and services regardless of whether it is in person or online.

What you need to know about using P2P payment apps

By Lynn Viesti Berube

One of the unique features about today’s app-centric society is there’s an app or just about everything, it seems.  It’s great to be able to download apps and take care of so many things on your mobile devices.   On the other hand, because these apps tend to be fairly targeted – most try to solve a single problem – they don’t always offer quite the level of flexibility or functionality users might want.

Take mobile payment apps, for instance, like Zelle or Venmo, which are becoming increasingly popular.  They are designed to make exchanging funds between individuals easier using digital technology.  But, they are not necessarily intended for all transactions.  Both companies have been clear that their intended use is for payments between friends or other people who know and trust one another.  For things like paying a share of a dinner bill, sending an entry fee for a fantasy sports league, or getting in on a group birthday gift, apps like these make transactions fast and simple.  These are cases where one individual outlays funds for an activity, and others need to pay their share.

But, as with any digital transactions, there are risks that users should be aware of.  Here are a few simple tips to keep your apps, accounts, and money safe while letting you enjoy the convenience of P2P payment apps.

Intended uses – Use the apps as they are intended.  If an online retailer asks you to pay using a p2P app, you should be suspicious.  Reputable online retailers should offer payment methods that don’t require immediate P2P transfers, such as credit cards, PayPal, and other means.  If you’re paying for services, such as a snowplow service in the winter, using a P2P app, you may be using local residents not set up to receive credit card payments, and sending a check each time it snows can be a nuisance, so a P2P app might be the best option.  At the very least, make sure you know who you’re paying, use only reputable providers, and make sure you’ve received the service before paying.  Consider sending a check the first few times to make sure the relationship works out.

Identity – It’s easy to make a mistake when typing an email, phone, number or username.  Double check whatever identifier you’re using to send money to someone.  Once the money has been sent, it’s hard – often impossible – to get it back, so taking the extra time to get it right can reduce potential headaches.

Send a test – If you’re not certain you are sending to the right person, send a small amount as a test and confirm they received it before sending the full amount.

Security – Follow the same security principles as you would for any other application or website.  Use the highest level of security they offer, including using a PIN or fingerprint ID for transactions.  If the application offers two-factor authentication, be sure to use it.  While this adds an additional step when using the app, it also adds an additional layer of protection that help keep you account secure, even if your credentials are compromised.

Deposits – Some apps place funds you’ve received into a mobile wallet until you manually transfer them into your bank account.  This can sometimes take several days to process, so once you have approved the transfer, check to verify that it actually went through.

Fees – Some P2P payment platforms charge fees for certain kinds of transactions.  Make sure you know what your app’s policies and fees are so you won’t be surprised and can account for fees when sending or receiving money.

Settings – Always check your app’s privacy and sharing settings.  They may have default settings that make information available to others that want kept private.

Kids – Many parents want to give their children access to P2P payment apps to make it easier for them to participate in various activities.  You probably don’t want to give them full access to your credit card or bank accounts, so take the trip to your local bank to see what options they might be able to offer, such as a prepaid debit card to link to your child’s app.  If they are part of one of the payment platform networks, they likely are well versed on the best ways to let your kids use them.  Of course, before anything, make sure your child’s device has security protocols enabled, and talk to them about potential security risks and how to avoid them.

 

Millennials Aren’t All-Digital When it Comes to Banking

By Joseph Weathered

The payment industry is evolving. Each year, new services and applications for financial transactions emerge.  Platforms like PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay and Zelle are increasing in popularity as society as a whole continues to become more digitized.  Customers demand digital products and, in response, The Milford Bank sees their value and offers our customers a variety of digital products geared from everything to sending money person to person to providing assistance in setting and fulfilling savings goals.  But, even though there’s a huge population of digital natives with bank accounts, it’s not entirely 100% digital; cash and checks are still more prevalent than many might expect, even with Millennials.

Yes, we saw check usage drop significantly from 2000-2012, as new digital and mobile apps hit the market and drew interest.  But, that decline has since slowed and, from 2016-2017, the value of check payments actually increased.

Despite having digital-first tendencies, more Millennials use checks (42%) than own video game consoles.  As it turns out, this generation, which has recently become the single largest population group in the U.S. workforce, uses checks and mobile wallets somewhat evenly.  About 37% of surveyed said they had written a check in the past month, and 38% said they had paid with a mobile wallet in that same time frame.

We understand Millennials are very tech-centric but what most people don’t recognize is that, at the same time, they haven’t shunned traditional alternatives, especially when it comes to their finances.  The truth is they use both digital and traditional banking products. Maybe it’s more accurate to say they are opportunistic, especially considering a low tolerance for poor customer service and greater willingness to switch their consumer and banking habits than older generations.  In other words, it’s tough to build brand loyalty with younger customers.

But, even though Millennials are known to be quick to switch brands after a poor experience, switching banks is a hassle – much more so than switching phone carriers.  In turn, Millennials seek out a financial institutions that cater to their preferences.  While the national brands may have greater visibility, The Milford Bank, through exceptional customer service and an understanding of the communities we exist within have advantages that play into Millennials’ needs.

The Milford Bank has strong local and community roots within New Haven and Fairfield County. Because of our local roots, we are able to be more engaged with our customers and communities, and are able to create a stronger bond with our customers, including Millennials. However, It doesn’t mean that the product portfolio is limited; to the contrary The Milford Bank is able to offer a variety of services that the customer, regardless of age can use, whether it is a digital product such as Zelle or a high interest, reward based checking service such as Kasasa.

With a better understanding of the customer, The Milford Bank is able to provide a combination of traditional and modern products which, along with exceptional customer service is one of the key factors that Millennial customers gravitate towards and value.

 

Are Millennials Putting Themselves at Risk with their Digital Habits?

By Pam Reiss

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the number of reported incidents of cyber fraud continues to increase, reaching to 351,937 in 2018, 16% more than 2017 and a 30% increase from 2014.  Losses from these incidents are growing even faster, reaching more than $2.7 billion last year, an increase of 90% from 2017, and almost 240% more than 2014.  The FTC, which collects data on all sources of fraud, are even more staggering, registering almost 3 million complaints last year alone.

What’s alarming is that no age group is immune.  While there is a correlation between age and amount lost according to FTC data, there is also a reverse correlation between age and frequency of fraud loss.  The median loss increases with age, and Americans 80 and over tend to experience significantly larger losses than any other age group.  But, they are also the least likely to experience loss due to fraud.

In fact, younger Americans under 30 appear to be much more susceptible to loss through fraud than other age groups, falling victim to some sort of fraud three times more often than senior citizens.  This is particularly alarming because it points to younger generations having habits that make them easier targets, which could place them at risk for larger losses as they get older and their savings grow.

A large part of it is the nature of digital natives – Millennials and post-Millennials.  Growing up with the world at their fingertips, they have been immersed in a social environment and are willing to share just about anything.  They have built an resistance to fear of sharing information, and the more “friends” and “followers” and “likes” they have, the more successful they feel, often with little regard for the source of acknowledgement.

That world of social media acceptance has created a false sense of trust, opening the door for criminals, who only need to collect a few pieces of information in order to accomplish their goals.  It’s very easy to set up fake digital personalities to collect personal information or to create entertaining online quizzes to show your IQ, what Star Wars character you would be, or other similar social interactions.

This willingness to share, combined with younger people’s inherently higher level of trust (perhaps we should call it naïveté), makes them easier targets than older generations, which are less likely to trust engagements from people or entities they don’t know.

Whether the result is providing personal information that can lead to fraud, or clicking on malicious links in appear to be legitimate, younger adults can often be more easily manipulated by con artists and cyber criminals.  The good news is there are a number of easy tips that can help keep everyone – young and old – safe.

  • Check senders’ actual email addresses (not just names, they can be falsified)
  • Don’t click on links unless you are sure they are legitimate
  • Don’t open attachments unless you are sure they are intended for you – verify with senders if needed
  • Don’t share personal information with anyone you don’t know, including birthdays and birth cities. Most entities that need this information already have it.  This is a common phone scam tactic
  • If you aren’t sure if a request is legitimate, don’t acknowledge it until you have verified it separately with the organization or friend asking for it
  • Don’t accept friend or follower requests from people you don’t know or who seem out of place
  • Always keep your cyber security software up to date on all devices
  • Monitor your bank and credit card accounts, as well as credit reports
  • Be aware of “free” offers – you can rarely get things for nothing
  • Don’t send money to anyone who isn’t a close friend or family member
  • Be on the lookout for “URGENT” requests for information or money – this is telltale sign of scams
  • Don’t engage in any financial or other sensitive transactions over public or other unsecured WiFi networks – they can easily be hacked and your data intercepted.

Following these simple steps will help keep your identity and finances secure.  It’s inevitable, however, that you will be engaged by a fraudster.  When that happens, be sure to report it.  The more information authorities have, the better then are able to connect scams with their perpetrators and hopefully catch them.

Hopefully, it won’t happen, but if you think your personal or financial information has been compromised, contact The Milford Bank immediately.

 

Identity Theft vs. Identity Fraud: What You Need to Know

By Tyler Haskell

Identity theft and identity fraud are becoming all too common today, with the economic impact to banks, businesses, and customers reaching well into the billions annually. In 2018, roughly 14.4 million American adults were victims of identity fraud, with losses totaling $14.7 billion. The two terms – identity theft and identity fraud – are closely related, but aren’t the same, despite often being used interchangeably.

Identity Theft
Identity theft takes place when criminals acquire personal data, which is then used for subsequent illegal activities, including identity fraud and the sale of information to others. This information can include any number of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) data, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank accounts, driver’s license numbers, passwords, and more.

There are many ways criminals can steal personal data, from advanced hacking techniques to intricate scams to burglary and dumpster searches. Corporate hacking instances have increased over the past years, with many high-profile breaches being featured in mainstream news, from retail stores to healthcare organizations. The breaches have resulted in millions of customers’ data being stolen. Mobile devices are also a high-value target, simply because of the incredible amount of data stored on them.

Identity Fraud
Identity Fraud happens when criminals use stolen personal data for illegitimate transactions. These may include fraudulent purchases, opening new bank accounts or credit cards, initiating loans, and more.

Identity fraud impacts not only the victims of identity theft, but also the other organizations that become part of the fraudulent activity: merchants, banks, credit card companies, etc. The truth is, everyone is impacted in some way because businesses build the cost of fraud into their pricing structures to help cover their losses.

Protecting Yourself
Recovering from identity fraud is a daunting task that can take 200-300 hours of time and cost $1,000 or more. What’s more, these accounts can appear on credit reports for extended periods, making it difficult for victims to get legitimate credit.

First and foremost, protect your data. Don’t share passwords or account information. Don’t lend your credit cards or IDs to others. Make sure you have high levels of security on your mobile devices and use highly secure passwords on your online accounts – and don’t reuse passwords. Also use two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Be aware of the countless scams being conducted via phone and online. If you even remotely question a request for information or an offer, hang up and call the institution back yourself to verify the request. Legitimate organizations don’t usually ask for sensitive information without you having contacted them first.

Be sure to check your credit report regularly. We can assist our account holders with this by activating Credit Sense on your online and mobile banking app. Credit Sense is a tool that will help you improve your financial well-being. Credit Sense gives you up-to-date personal credit information including credit scores, credit usage, total balances, payment history, credit age and recent credit. You can refresh your credit score as often as you need and get tips on how to improve it. Credit Sense also offers credit monitoring, which gives you protection from fraud with alerts notifying you when something has changed in your credit profile.

While it’s hard to keep your data completely safe, following these simple precautions and staying alert can help you avoid the hassles and financial burden of identity theft and fraud. To help you with best practices for avoiding identity theft, contact us to learn how we are helping protect your identity and funds.

Safety Tips for Online Banking

By Dave Wall

As with most services today, banking has moved into the digital world. Online banking provides an easy way to manage personal finances quickly and conveniently, without the need to worry about mailing checks to pay bills or going to the bank for simple transactions. But, the rise of digital commerce gave rise to a cyber underworld of hackers that requires caution and diligence with online activities, especially those that include financial transactions.  To keep you accounts and personal information safe, there are several best practices to follow when using online banking services.

Strong Passwords
Always make sure you use strong passwords that are not easily guessable. They should be long and include both upper- and lowercase letter, numbers, and other characters.  Using names, birthdates, and other easily guessable personal details is not recommended.  Even with the number of high-profile hacks featured by media outlets, some of the top passwords in use include “123456” and “password.”  Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.  That way, even if one is compromised, your other accounts will be safe.  Change you passwords regularly.

Secure WiFi
Only use secure WiFi networks. Open, unsecure public WiFi networks are an easy target for hackers, who can intercept data transmitted between you and the bank.  The safest policy is to limit your banking activity to your secure home network, but if you need to make transactions while away from home, use secure networks, or even use your mobile device’s cellular connection instead of WiFi.

Secure Websites
Make sure any website you use for financial transactions is secure by checking the URL. If it begins with “https” the site is secured with an SSL certificate.  Chrome browsers are starting to identify non-secure sites with a “Not Secure” label starting this month to help identify them.

Mobile Devices
If you are using a mobile device for your financial transactions, using the bank’s official mobile app is a good option. It is often even more secure than websites and is much less susceptible to hacking.  Make sure you update the app when required, and while most users tend to avoid automatic app updates, setting your banking app to update automatically ensures you’ll be using the current version with the latest security measures.  Turn off your Bluetooth connection when using your mobile device.  Bluetooth signals can be hijacked, just like open WiFi, allowing hackers to intercept your data.  This is a good policy at all times when not using your Bluetooth capability for communication.

Account Security
Regardless of how you access your accounts, it’s advisable to request text or email alerts whenever transactions are made or if balances drop below a certain threshold. This immediately alerts you if any unauthorized transaction has taken place and allows you to react quickly.  If available, you should always enable two-factor authentication on your accounts.  That means you will have to use two means of authorizing yourself as the user, but it makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access, even if they have gotten your password.  One example of two-factor authentication is entering a required passcode to be entered, which is sent to a specified mobile number when a login is attempted.  Similarly, disable any automatic logins on your devices.  While logging in each time takes additional time, the added security can make sure your accounts aren’t accessible to hackers gaining access to your device.

Separate PC for Banking
If you have access to a separate computer to use only for your banking activity, you can reduce risk of threats from gaming, web browsing, email, social media, and other activities. If you have an old laptop or PC that you’re not using anymore, consider cleaning it up, updating the operating system and browser, and using that as your dedicated banking device.  It may not be powerful enough for gaming, streaming videos, and other popular activities, but it can still be very useful for securing your online banking.  If you don’t have access to a separate computer, you can still use a dedicated browser – one you don’t use for any other online activities.  That will still reduce risk.  Regardless of the device, make sure you keep your antivirus, browser, and operating system up-to-date to ensure you have the latest security patches.

Be Aware of Scams
Every day, hackers and scammers send countless fake offers in an effort gain access to devices and personal information. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Delete suspicious emails and texts immediately, and never share account information online.  Similarly, we won’t ask you for account details or other personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call.  If you aren’t sure if a call is legitimate, hang up and call back.

Check you Accounts Regularly
Even the most diligent customers can have their account information or identities stolen from other sources. It’s a good policy to monitor your accounts and credit report regularly to check for any unauthorized accounts or transactions.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three national credit agencies to provide a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months.  That will allow you to check your credit report every four months at no cost.

Regardless of what transactions you’re making online, following these guidelines will help protect your assets and credit standing.

Five Financial Challenges to Test Your Saving Skills

By Tina Mason

One of the best ways to invigorate your saving strategy is by issuing yourself a challenge. Not only does the competition make it a little more fun, but you’ll also learn valuable lessons about the long-term benefits of discipline, the way your daily spending habits impact your quality of life, and just how much you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.

If you’re looking to make improvements to your financial planning and add a little extra padding to your savings account, here are five financial challenges you can try.

Take a new look at a favorite vice: There’s nothing wrong with splurging every now and then. But if you’re spending $5.00 on a cup of coffee every day, you may want to take a fresh look at how you get your morning pick-me-up. Could you live with making coffee at home and saving yourself over $1,000 a year?

Dive into the gig economy: If you find yourself with lots of free time and aren’t sure what to do with it, challenge yourself to finding a part-time gig. If you love nothing more than driving around town listening to music, maybe Uber would be a good fit. Fancy yourself a writer? Try to get published as a freelancer. There are tons of opportunities that will fit where, and how, you need them to.

Live like you’re single: Remember when you were young and single? You could somehow survive in an apartment the size of your living room. You ate Ramen noodles for breakfast. And even if you had less money saved up, you may have felt more financially free. Granted, your spouse may not appreciate Ramen the way your 20-year old self did. However, we all behave differently when we engage with others. By focusing solely on your own finances for a brief stint, you may be able to indicate where you’re letting money fall through the cracks.

A dollar a day: This one’s simple. Get a jar, and add a dollar to it every day. If you’ve got something you’re saving for, simply wait until you’ve gotten there. If not, consider it a rainy day fund for an emergency. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget about a dollar every day.

Pile up your perks: Perks are everywhere these days. Debit and credit cards will often offer discounts, deals or cashback. Some people go coupon crazy at the grocery store. In this challenge, you are tasked with taking cash equal in value to the perks you’ve accumulated and putting it into a new savings account. It is a way of making your savings seem tangible, and will always help to remind you  to look for savings in your day to day life.

At The Milford Bank, we’re always looking for great ways to help you grow your wealth, protect your family and live your best life. To learn more ways to save, stop by any office location in Milford or Stratford or check out our Online Learning Center here.

 

‘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.