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.

 

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.

Millennial Spending Habits Leave Little Room to Save

By Cortney Meng

It was only three years ago that Millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, surpassing the Baby Boomers with employment numbers of 53.5 million. This seemed to be a coming-of-age moment for Millennials, but new research indicates that in spite of three straight years as the top demographic in the labor force, Millennials have yet to turn their earnings into savings.

According to a new Bank of America survey, it was found that 46 percent of Millennials had no money in a savings account in 2017. Even more startling, this number actually increased from 31 percent over the span of just one year.

Given the fact that Millennials are working more but spending less, this financial epidemic may be rooted in poor spending habits. Let’s take a deeper dive into how Millennials are spending their money in 2018, and what they can do to break the cycle and bolster their savings.

Spending on comfort and convenience

A Charles Schwab report found that Millennials, more so than previous generations, are willing to spend frivolously on comforts and conveniences. 60 percent admitted to spending more than $4 on coffee, 79 percent would splurge to eat at the hot restaurant in town and 69 percent buy clothes they don’t necessarily need. Millennials also surpassed both Generation X and Baby Boomers when it came to shelling out cash for the latest tech gadgets and live events, as well.

Bills, bills, bills

Though Millennials do their share of frivolous spending, not all the bills in the mailbox are a choice. In fact, a recent Mother Jones study compared Millennials to young families from the 1980’s and 1990’s and found that young adults today pay about $1,000 more on healthcare, $1,500 on pensions and Social Security, $2,000 more on overall housing and $700 more on education.

Simply put, cost of living increases have put a damper on what earnings Millennials have generated. That said, the need to save for the future must remain a top priority. Millennials must reconcile the lifestyles they wish to lead with the realities of the world they want to live them in.

So what can Millennials do to start getting their savings accounts in the black?

Forbes recently outlined some of the ways in which Millennials can begin breaking the bad habits that have gotten them to this point. Here are a few key points:

  • Millennials, natives of the Social Media age, are often pressured to be at every event, party or Happy Hour. FOMO, or “fear of missing out”, is a very real phenomenon and can often lead individuals to spend money they don’t have, simply to ensure they’re in the picture—both literally and figuratively.
  • Setting clear goals is crucial, especially if you’re not where you should be or want to be financially. Even if it’s just saving $10 from each paycheck, it’s a start. By clearly defining your needs, and your limitations, you’ll soon be able to turn $10 into $100.
  • Checking and savings are two different things, yet many Millennials try to use a checking account for all their cash. Not only does this curb your growth potential, but it becomes all too easy to draw from that money in a particularly tight week. If it’s visible and easily obtained, you may have a hard time saving it.

To learn more about developing an approach to saving that will get you where you want to be, stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford, or check out our Online Learning Center here.

Investment Tips for an Uncertain Market

By Matt Kelly

At the end of January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average capped off another record-setting month of growth, settling in around 26,600 points. Just a week into February, and the market had shaved off nearly 2,000 points as analysts began to question whether the bull market had finally slowed to a halt and whether we were in for a correction, recession, or more.

Now, investors find themselves quickly fluctuating between rapid sell-offs and frenzied buying sprees, uncertain about the more long-term economic outlook.

Of course, it’s not advisable to simply liquidate your assets and keep it all as cash under your mattress just because the stock market is volatile. Instead, this is a good point to calmly evaluate your needs, your long-term goals, and consider tweaking your investment strategy to make sure you don’t waste any time growing your portfolio.

While you should never make an investment without first consulting your advisor, here are a few tips to help steer you in the right direction.

You don’t need to abandon the markets entirely: Even when the markets suffer huge losses, there are still plenty of successful companies that weather the storm. You don’t need to pull all your savings from the stock market, but you do need to address whether or not your portfolio is diverse and conservative enough to be protected from a bear market.

Check out indexed and whole life insurance policies: Not only is life insurance an important component of your family’s financial planning, it can also act as an investment vehicle depending on the type of life insurance you procure. A whole life insurance policy will provide you with extra cash every time you pay your premiums. Indexed policies use that cash value and invest it into accounts tied to an index like the S&P 500. They have a floor of zero, meaning that you won’t lose money in a bad year, but still retain upside potential.

Consult with your financial advisor: Watching the stock market go up and down can be more emotional than an Oscar-nominated drama. And if you’re emotional, you may not be making sound financial decisions. Consult with your financial advisor before making any sudden changes to your investment strategy. This will ensure that your goals, and your financial needs, are both working in conjunction to secure your future and maximize your wealth.

To learn more about the savings opportunities available to you, stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford, or check out our Online Learning Center here.

The Savings Spotlight Series, Part 3: Mid-Career Planning

By Chaz Gaines

In the Savings Spotlight Series, we’ve made the case that there are numerous stepping stones throughout our lives that lead us down the path to financial well being. At every point, you’ll need to take a different approach. A teenager, for instance, might be saving for their first car. An individual nearing retirement is going to have a drastically different goal, and method, for reaching their savings objective.

Already in this series, we’ve provided useful savings tips for both first-time banking customers and recent college graduates. In Part 3 we’re going to fast forward a decade or two along our path to retirement, focusing in on the savings needs of individuals in the middle of their careers.

Maximize employer benefits: Most of the businesses that offer retirement benefits will no longer contribute after you’ve left the company. Now, nearing the height of your earning power, you should be doing all you can with the remainder of your working years to take advantage—especially if your employer will match your contributions.

Balance retirement and college funds: Many individuals at this stage in their lives must reconcile the need to have a forward-thinking retirement-oriented saving strategy while simultaneously helping their children get started on their own path. It can be challenging, but your focus when crafting a budget and savings strategy should balance both.

Bolster your emergency account: Many individuals at this stage in their working life have been at their jobs for twenty years or more—making them feel quite secure. But sometimes, business decisions are out of our control, and many families get blindsided by that false sense of security. Even if you expect success, a failure to keep an emergency cash account funded could put your family at risk. Many experts believe you should have at least six to nine months salary readily available in case of emergency.

Expect the unexpected: Just like it’s important to plan for emergencies throughout your life, it’s important to plan for the end of your life too. If you were to pass away today, your grieving family would still have to keep paying the mortgage, fund college accounts and plan for retirement—all without your income. While this is a sensitive matter in which thinking about money should be secondary, it’s nonetheless a reality that your family will have to cope with. Securing life insurance will provide the coverage your family will need in the event that the worst comes to pass. Some policies, like whole life insurance, even have features to assist with your savings goals.

Shift investments to meet changing goals: Every investment vehicle offers a unique benefit. So if your financial goals are shifting, shouldn’t your savings strategy? When we’re young, we have more ability to rebound from a risky investment. We also have more time to let a certain, conservative investment grow. Now, in the middle of your working life, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on whether the vehicle that got you this far is going to be the vehicle that gets you all the way to the finish line, or if it’s time to trade in.

To learn more about crafting the best saving strategy for you and the needs of your family, check out our Online Learning Center or stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Stratford or Milford today.

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.

FDIC Reports 10 Scams Targeting Banking Customers- Part 1

By Dave Wall

The holiday season is upon us once more in Milford and Stratford, and we’d be willing to bet that you’re one of the millions of Americans that has already helped to make the 2017 holiday shopping season a record-setter. But in the flurry of transactions and the general chaos that is the holiday season, it can be difficult to stick to financial security best practices.

However, according to the FDIC, it’s now more important than ever.

In a recent report, the FDIC issued a list of 10 scams being perpetrated today by con-artists looking to empty bank accounts, steal financial data and ruin much more than your holiday.

In this series, we’ll take a deeper look at the list so that you can stay on alert through the holidays and throughout the rest of the year, too.

  1. Government Imposter Frauds: If you get a call, an email or letter from a government agency requesting that you make an immediate payment or provide personally identifiable information (PII) on the spot, you’re the target of a government imposter. Government agencies will never ask for PII or a payment in the moment.
  2. Debt Collection Scams: Criminals will often pose as debt collectors or law enforcement officers in an attempt to shake down unsuspecting individuals who may already be having a tough time dealing with debt. If the individual cannot produce records, or threatens violence or arrest, you will know that it is not a legitimate claim.
  3. Fraudulent Job Offers: Background checks are part of many legitimate job offers. But some con artists are now using online classified ads to draw in job seekers with cryptic promises of employment. They’ll request personal information to conduct what they claim is a background check, when in reality they’re using the information to steal your identity. You’ll have to do your due diligence when looking for employers, so be sure to gather all the facts about a company before you comply with a background check.
  4. Phishing Emails: Phishing emails use spoofing software to mimic the email address of your contacts. They will then disseminate an email—typically with malware embedded within a link in the body of the text—in the hopes that someone will click the attachment. This will then give the hacker remote access to your device, helping them to find your financial records and PII.
  5. Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue: There are plenty of homeowners out there having a hard time making ends meet. But if you’re approached by a loan broker or consultant with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. They’ll promise you anything in exchange for a down payment or personal information, but in many cases victims end up getting foreclosed on anyway. In other cases, victims are even tricked into signing away ownership of their property to the scammer.

To learn more about how to follow financial security best practices, stop by a Milford Bank office location in Milford or Stratford, or check out our Online Learning Center here. And be sure to keep watch for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll be delving into the FDIC’s remaining 5 scams targeting banking customers today.

Baby Boomer Retirement Challenges, Part 2: Strategies for Success

By Sindy Berkowitz

Every day, roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers retire. But many of them do so unaware of the challenges they will face when living off their savings alone. The Insured Retirement Institute recently found that the average American will enter retirement with an income gap ranging from $3,864 and $12,072. Such a disparity is unsustainable, and even if it doesn’t disrupt your lifestyle now, it is likely to do so in your later years when you’re less capable of addressing the problem.

In Part 1 of this series we addressed some of the core challenges facing American retirees today. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at some ways that you can alleviate your retirement concerns.

Consult with a financial advisor: Retirement planning is a big job, and it can be difficult to have the knowledge and experience necessary to go it alone when trying to maximize your wealth to meet your retirement objectives. A financial advisor can help you get the proper context, help you shape a budget, and offer great advice to help you plan effectively.

Take advantage of employer benefits: If your company offers a pension plan or retirement account benefit like a 401(k) or IRA, you should do everything you can to take advantage now—especially if your company matches contributions. After you retire, certain benefits may no longer be available to you. If all your retirement accounts are already fully funded, you have other options available. If you’re over 50 and just starting out, though, you may be eligible for catch-up contributions that offer higher contribution caps.

Put additional funds into an annuity: Annuities provide a guaranteed income stream for life, making them a good consideration for retirees. Annuities, unlike 401(k) or IRA accounts, do not have a maximum contribution limit, and have several other unique characteristics that set them apart from other retirement savings accounts.

Delay Social Security payouts: Retirees can begin collecting Social Security at age 62, but your monthly paycheck depends upon when you start collecting, and your full retirement age. Every year that you delay past your full retirement age increases your payout by 8 percent. So if two individuals with a full retirement age of 65, for instance, start collecting Social Security at 62 and 67 respectively, the individual who deferred payouts will see a 30 percent higher payout.

Asess your risk tolerance: All investment vehicles will come with a varying degree of risk. That’s why it’s important to diversify your holdings. That said, every individual has a different lifestyle, different goals and expectations for retirement. While some retirees want a more conservative, low-risk and assured income in retirement, others may find themselves looking to take a more aggressive approach to accumulating wealth post-career.

At The Milford Bank, we have been helping Milford and Stratford retirees develop successful saving strategies for generations. But Baby Boomers face unique challenges unlike those before them. To get started with a retirement strategy that will work for you, stop by a Milford Bank location today. You can also learn more by checking out our Online Learning Center.

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.