Survey Reveals Most Americans Have Financial Regrets

by Patty Gallagher

Hey, Milford and Stratford residents—have you ever done something you regret with your money? Maybe there’s an expensive pair of shoes collecting dust in the corner of your closet. Or maybe you had an investment go belly up. Whatever your example is, remember this: you’re not alone.

In a new survey from Bankrate, it was revealed that 4 in 5 Americans has some form of financial regret. What were the most commonly reported causes for regret?

  1. Retirement Savings: Not saving enough for retirement was the leading financial regret of the 1,000 Bankrate survey respondents. 22 percent of those individuals cited not saving enough for a comfortable retirement.
  2. Emergency Savings: Similarly, a large percentage of people claimed they regretted saving enough for emergencies. At 16 percent, this was the second most common financial regret.
  3. Credit card debt: 9 percent of survey respondents claimed that they had regrets about the balance of their credit card. These individuals report carrying more credit card debt than their budgets can bare.
  4. Student loan debt: Student loan debt continues to be a national issue, which is clearly reflected in this survey. 9 percent of respondents claimed that they regretted the amount of debt they had to take on in order to get their college degree.
  5. Children’s education: While graduates continue to grapple with student loan debt, many parents are feeling regret themselves. 8 percent of respondents had regrets about the amount that they had saved for their child’s education.
  6. Buying a home: 2 percent of survey respondents claimed that they had regrets about buying a house that was too expensive for their budget.
  7. Something else: This is where the expensive shoes and bad investments come into play. 7 percent of survey respondents had regrets about a wide variety of other financial decisions they’d made.
  8. No regrets: One out of five respondents claimed that they had no financial regrets whatsoever. And while it is noble to live without regrets, the previous examples clearly demonstrate that financial decisions cannot be taken so lightly. The choices you make today will impact you for a lifetime. If you have a family, your financial regrets can seep over across generations. Take the example of education savings, for instance. If more parents had done a better job saving for their child’s education, it is likely that fewer graduates would report regrets about student loan debt.

But if you have your own financial regret, it is important not to let it define you. Every difficult financial situation can be addressed and improved with the right strategy and network of support behind you. At The Milford Bank, we offer a diverse portfolio of financial services to help you make the smartest decisions with your money, as well as an experienced team ready to help you meet your financial challenges head on. You can also learn more on our Online Learning Center, or stop by a branch location in Milford or Stratford today!

New Gallup Poll Provides Key Lessons for College Students

By Patty Gallagher

With the school year almost over, many high school seniors in Milford and Stratford have already made the decision on if, and where, they’re going to attend college. While that decision itself can seem incredibly complex, it is really just the beginning of a long and challenging process that promises many more difficult decisions to come.

When it comes to making difficult decisions, one of the best things that an inexperienced person can do is look at the examples set by those before them. And based on findings from a recent Gallup poll, there are plenty of impediments that future students can avoid if they heed the advice of their predecessors.

The Gallup poll surveyed 90,000 Americans with college degrees. According to the results, 51 percent of respondents had regrets about one aspect of their educational experience. The most common response had to do with the field of study chosen by survey respondents. 36 percent stated that, if they could repeat their educational experience all over again, they would change their field of study.

28 percent, meanwhile, had second thoughts about the institution they selected to attend. 12 percent of graduates had regrets about the type of degree they completed, while over half of respondents said that at least one of the three choices applied to them.

There are many reasons to select a degree, a major and an institution. But students have to understand that they can’t think about this decision as just an 18-year old. They’ve also got to ask themselves whether or not their future self would make the same decision.

Clearly, a majority of American graduates can attest that the choices you make now will have a lasting impact longer after you’ve graduated. As such, it is critical that students take a comprehensive approach to making these selections. They need to strike a balance between what they hope to achieve, and what they can reasonably afford without succumbing to overwhelming student debts.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford parent with a student heading to college this fall, be sure to speak with your child about their vision for the next four years and beyond. It can also be helpful to leverage resources at your child’s school, including counselors and teachers.

You also stand to benefit from stopping by any office of The Milford Bank. Our friendly and experienced staff can provide a wealth of educational resources designed to help you and your child take the guesswork out of the college process. By putting in the work to educate yourself on the college process, you’ll be able to put your education to work for you without regrets.

Check back on our blog from time to time to catch the latest tips and tricks for getting the most out of your education, or learn more by checking out free resources on our Online Learning Center.


Execute a Successful Saving Strategy, Part 3

By Pam Reiss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Helpful Hints for Managing Credit Card Debt

By Karuna Kasbawala

For most people, discussing their financial challenges is about as popular as receiving a root canal. As a result, individuals faced with difficult financial decisions often feel like they’re all alone. But the reality is that millions of Americans are facing similar difficulties.

In fact, researchers recently found that the median debt per American household is $2,300—with the average debt per individual reaching $5,700. Getting out of debt can be a long, difficult and stressful process.

But if you develop a clear strategy and stick to it, you won’t have to let your credit card debt rule your life for long. If you’re having a difficult time managing the balance on your credit card, consider applying some of the following hints to your strategy for getting caught up.

Set a budget: In many cases, financial problems aren’t caused by poor saving practices, but by poor spending decisions. By setting a budget, you will get an accurate guideline of what you need to do in order to get out of debt. This will help you put every purchase in its proper context and dissuade poor spending decisions.

Take interest in interest rates: Once you fall behind on credit card payments, it will be the interest rates that make it harder to catch up. If you have multiple credit cards with an outstanding balance, prioritize paying off the card with the highest interest rate. Otherwise, you may want to consider consolidating your debt to get a lower interest rate altogether.

Make multiple monthly payments: Chipping away at your debt may require making minimum payments for a little while. But when you can, make multiple minimum payments within a month. This can reduce your average daily balance, which can lower your interest charges. In addition, making multiple payments will look good for your credit history.

Stop using your credit card: The easiest way to stop racking up credit card debt is to stop using your credit card. This will help you learn how to purchase only the most essential items. But for consumers relying on that line of credit, this might mean having to find an alternative method for making ends meet. Fortunately, many banks are now offering debit cards with the same types of rewards traditionally granted only through credit cards—without any interest rates attached.

Speak with a debt management expert: As previously stated, talking about finances is one of the most difficult conversations you can have. But it is still one of the most important, too. Consulting with a debt management expert will help you learn how to avoid financial pitfalls and strategize your escape from debt in a comfortable and judgment-free setting.

If you’re suffering from credit card debt, you don’t have to go it alone. Stop by any office of The Milford Bank to speak with one of our financial experts, or learn more about managing debt at our Online Learning Center.

Savings Strategies for Milford, Stratford Residents Nearing 30

by Cortney Meng

Milford and Stratford residents: do you have a 30th birthday coming up? If so, take a moment to reflect on where you were and what you were doing just 10 years ago. A lot has changed, no? In fact, your twenties can be one of the most transformative decades of your life. By the time you reach 30, you may be entrenched in a career, thinking about getting married, buying a home or even having children. Maybe you’ve already done all of the above!

As such, it is important that you reevaluate your savings strategy to reflect your changing lifestyle as you approach your 30th birthday.

If you’re looking to overhaul your savings strategy, here are a few good places to start.

Start a retirement account: If you haven’t started saving for retirement, you’re not alone. In fact, 57 percent of millennials have yet to start saving for retirement. But the fact remains that the sooner you start, the easier time you’ll have reaching your goals. If your company offers a 401(k), start taking advantage of the benefit if you are financially able to do so. You might also want to diversify by establishing an IRA or investing in a mutual fund too.

Buy life insurance: At 20, you might not have had anyone depending on you. But the game often changes at 30. You might be responsible for your business, your partner, a child, a mortgage or other loans. A big part of that responsibility is making sure your loved ones are taken care of if the worst should happen to you. At 30, you’re still likely young and healthy enough to qualify for an inexpensive life insurance policy. Some forms of insurance, like permanent life and annuities, double as investment vehicles, making them an important part of your savings strategy as you enter your 30’s.

Improve your credit score: A great credit score will open up many doors to you in your 30’s. You’ll be able to secure a larger line of credit with lower interest rates if you can demonstrate that you’ve been historically responsible with your spending. Speak with a credit agency or financial expert to see how you might be able to boost your score, so that you’ll be in a position of strength when you’re ready for the big financial decisions that many of us make in our 30’s.

Take a calculated risk: It is generally considered a best practice to be conservative with your savings when you’re young. Many years of safe, steady earnings can leave you poised to have a great retirement in a few decades. But another benefit of youth is that you have more time to bounce back if an investment doesn’t pan out. Consider taking a small, discretionary sum of money and check out a company or product that you’re passionate about. It might not pan out, but you never know—you might invest in the next Amazon or Apple, too.

If you’re ready to take a serious look at your savings strategy as you approach your 30’s, stop by any office of The Milford Bank branch near you to speak with an experienced financial advisor today. You can also learn more by checking out our Online Learning Center.

Survey Shows Millennials Prioritizing Coffee Over Retirement

By Matt Kelly

Hey Millennials, how do you take your coffee? Do you pick up a simple $1.00 cup from the gas station during your morning commute? Or are you all about splurging on a $5.00 specialty drink at Starbucks to give you an afternoon pick-me-up? Whether you’re adding cream, sugar or a shot of espresso, there is one trait that is shared by Millennial coffee drinkers: they’re more focused on what’s in their mugs than what’s in their retirement accounts.

According to a recent poll conducted by SurveyMonkey and investing app Acorns, 41 percent of Millennials currently spend more on their morning cup of coffee over the course of the year than they put into retirement savings.

The survey, which polled more than 1,900 18-35 year olds, also found that 41 percent of Millennials believe they will not be financially secure enough to retire until they’re older than 65. While you can’t lay the blame squarely on coffee consumption, these statistics do reveal a frightening pattern of financial neglect.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a cup of coffee to start your day. But if Millennials want to enjoy comfortable retirements, at some point they will have to look a little deeper about their spending and saving decisions.

Consider, for instance, that brewing your coffee at home can save you tons of money every day. If you buy a large container of inexpensive grounds, your home brew might run you less than 10 cents per cup. Even if you prefer K-cups, many brands offer deals that won’t add up to more than 50 cents per cup.

If Millennials were to get serious about cutting into their coffee budgets, they’d be able to start seeing a positive effect on their savings pretty quickly.

An individual switching from $5 per cup of coffee to 10 cents per cup will save $1,788.50 over the course of a year. Even after one month, you’d have an extra $150 in your pocket—enough to cover utilities and grocery bills!

But retirement accounts are long-term investments. So what would your coffee savings look like by the time you reach retirement age? Using the previous example, over the course of 30 years, would amount to $53,655—a figure that sounds like a competitive yearly salary for many. By changing how they think about their coffee drinking habits, Millennials could potentially save enough to retire a full year earlier than they believed possible!

When it comes to retirement planning, it is ideal to begin saving as early as you can. But circumstances aren’t always ideal. Fortunately, it is never too late to get on a path towards financial freedom. By making minor adjustments to your day-to-day spending, you can begin funding your retirement with the money you’ve already got in your pocket.

To maximize the value of your savings, stop by The Milford Bank and speak to one of our experienced financial advisors, or check out our Online Learning Center. We offer a variety of financial services and investment vehicles, ranging from traditional savings accounts, to certificates of deposit, IRAs, money markets and more. Start planning today so you’ll be able to enjoy your daily cup of coffee long into retirement.

Don’t Let Finances Wreck Your Relationship

By Cortney Meng

Anybody in a relationship knows that love and money will invariably intersect. Relationships are partnerships, and managing finances simply comes with the territory. But the results of a recent survey conducted by SunTrust Bank revealed that finances are the primary culprit for many couples’ relationship stress. According to the survey, 35 percent of respondents cited financial management as the biggest cause of friction with their partner—ten percent higher than second place finisher, annoying habits.

The issue is much bigger than figuring out whether or not to split a restaurant bill. Financial management underlies most of the big decisions that couples will make together, from marriage, having children, purchasing a home, to taking a vacation or planning for retirement. Without developing a stress-free financial planning strategy, couples may end up overwhelmed, stressed out and never attain the goals they set for themselves.

In order to make sure that you and your partner don’t let finances become a bone of contention in your relationship, consider adopting some of these practices for managing your money together.

Set your budget around shared financial goals. If only one partner in a relationship is concerned about reaching a financial benchmark, your finances are likely to become a stressor. To make sure you and your partner are saving in synch, set a series of short, medium and long-term goals which you both aspire to achieve. That way, you’ll be able to stay on track and budget accordingly to reach the carrot dangling in front of you.

Leave room in your budget for separate spending too. Nearly half of respondents to SunTrust’s survey reported that they had different spending habits than their partners. Disproportionate spending is a breeding ground for resentment, so be sure when you’re planning your monthly budget to allocate an equal amount for each partner to use as they see fit, no questions asked. That way, an individual inclined to save more will have that chance, while someone inclined to spend more won’t need to ask permission. And because there’s a set cap on personal spending, the couples’ finances won’t get out of control.

Seek the services of a financial planner. Managing finances within the context of a relationship can be stressful because it is difficult to take the emotions out of a purely mathematical process. In such cases, consider consulting with a financial planner. You’ll receive an objective third-party opinion from an individual that can give you a clear path to meet your goals, as well as investing strategies that will be best suited for your lifestyle needs and wants.

Stop by any office of The Milford Bank to learn about the products you need to achieve your goals. You can also check out more information on our Learning Center here.

Calculating Your Net Worth: Five Common Questions

by Mark Attanasio

Even if you never actually see your paycheck and it is automatically transferred to your bank account each week, you may still know how much you’re making—maybe even down to the penny. Most people are fully aware of their income. But when it comes to net worth, the story is entirely different.

This is problematic because, unlike your income, net worth encompasses all your assets and debts. Calculating your net worth can provide you with a true measure of your financial well being, as well as providing you the information you need to improve your fiscal standing.

To help you figure out what you need to know about net worth, here are some of the questions others are asking too.

What, exactly, is net worth?

There is a simple formula that easily defines net worth. Add up all your assets—income, savings, investments and property. Then subtract all your existing debts. The total is your net worth.

When will I need to know my net worth?

While you won’t need to keep track of your net worth on a day to day basis, there are critical moments when it’s a good idea to have a firm grasp of your true value. You may want to understand the long-term trends for your net worth (how quickly you’re making or losing value) when planning your retirement or your estate. You may need it when looking to secure a mortgage or apply for student loans on behalf of your children.

I can’t touch my retirement accounts for 30 years. Do they count?

Your liquid assets are only one part of the net worth equation. Even if you don’t receive a distribution from your 401(k) or IRA accounts now, they’re still considered a part of your net worth.

Do I have the same net worth as my spouse?

Depending on how you and your spouse manage your household finances, your net worth may be identical or it could be drastically different. If you’re both listed as co-owners of your home, share a credit card or car, those assets will be attributed to both of you. If you both purchased vehicles separately, only the vehicle to your name will be considered for your calculation. However, if you add your partner’s net worth to yours, you’ll know your household net worth, which itself is important to track.

How do you account for outstanding car loans and mortgage payments?

When incorporating existing loans into your net worth calculation, you cannot truly consider houses or vehicles as assets until they’ve been paid for in full. So if you took out a $100,000 mortgage and have paid off $99,000, your home is still considered a $1,000 liability. But once you’ve made your last payment your home becomes a $100,000 asset.

Now that you have a better grasp on your net worth, stop by any office of The Milford Bank to see how you can continue to improve your financial standing today. You can also learn more at our online Learning Center or check out more financial calculators here.

Wealth Management Lessons from the Billionaires’ Club

By Karuna Kasbawala

When Forbes put out its latest list of the 500 wealthiest people around the world, the individuals selected had a collective net worth of $4.7 trillion. While you may not be in a position to ask for their advice on where to bring your private jet for maintenance, there is plenty for the average person to learn about wealth management from the people who do it better than anyone else.

Below are the five individuals that topped Forbes’ list, as well as a wealth management lesson you can apply in your own life.

Bill Gates: Gates is an annual contender for the richest person in the world. But his path to success wasn’t always clear. After enrolling in Harvard in 1973, he dropped out of school two years later to start a company you’ve probably heard of before—Microsoft. While earning a college degree can have a tremendous impact on your earning potential, don’t make the mistake of thinking it is the only way you can become successful.

Carlos Slim Helu: While lesser known than Bill Gates, Carlos Helu’s net worth is nearly identical. How has he done so well? The key was starting early. At 12 he was investing in bonds, stock and learning how to do book-keeping and read financial sheets from his father. If you have young children, don’t shy away from teaching them the importance of wealth management. Click here for additional resources to getting your kids educated about banking today.

Warren Buffett: Buffett owes much of his fortune to his ownership of Berkshire Hathaway. Much of the corporation’s work revolves around real estate, but Buffett himself is not a customer. He still lives in the home in Omaha, Nebraska that he purchased 60 years ago for just $31,500. Take a look at your own life—are there more cost-effective and practical ways to handle your assets?

Amancio Ortega: As the founder and chairman of Inditex—a famous fashion company in Europe—Ortega knows that when it comes to accumulating wealth, every step you take is important. As a young teenager in Spain, Ortega started working as a shop hand for a shirt maker in his town. He perfected his craft for years before finally launching his own line of bathrobes and opening his own business. Amancio Ortega’s success proves that all work has value. Even if you’re at the bottom of the ladder now, the hard work you put in can pay dividends down the road.

Larry Ellison: Larry Ellison is a testament to the notion that giving up hope should never be an option. Even though he is a successful Silicon Valley magnate today, Ellison was not exposed to computer sciences early in his life like other high-earning tech innovators. In fact, he was only introduced to computer design during his second attempt at higher education.

You don’t need billions of dollars to have a high quality of life. But if you’re like most, having a little extra money in your savings account wouldn’t hurt either. The wealthiest people in the world all had to earn their first dollar at one point, just like everybody else. It is their discipline, hard work and humility that helped them keep the momentum moving forward. Find more ways to manage your wealth at our online Learning Center by clicking here.

Starting to Sweat the Cost of Tuition? We Can Help!

By Patty Gallagher

Even from the time your child enters high school, teachers and advisors are beginning to prepare your children for higher education. The idea that your son or daughter is going to graduate might seem far off then, but by the time he or she enters junior year the prospect starts to get real.

All of a sudden, you start researching the cost of tuition—between $21,000 and $23,000 for one year at Connecticut’s state schools—and wonder how you’ll be able afford higher education. But don’t be alarmed by the sticker shock. There are ample resources available to your family to ensure your child can get a college degree.

Here are just a few ways you ensure your child earns a degree without you having to empty your savings account.

  • Financial assistance: Click here to check out the scholarship finder in the left hand column of the Milford Bank Learning Center. By entering your child’s SAT, ACT and GPA, as well as the state where he or she wants to go to school, you can receive a free customized scholarship report detailing available funding emailed to you directly—and at no cost. You’ll also find educational resources to learn about student loans and grants.
  • Take introductory classes at community college: Many course credits earned at community colleges will satisfy the basic requirements of degrees at more expensive schools. Learn which credits will transfer, have your child complete a semester or two at community college, and then begin applying to other schools.
  • Apply as a commuter: Half the cost of tuition goes to paying to live in dorms on campus. Based on the average state school tuition, your child could commute from home and save your family roughly $900 per month. Even if he or she is adamant about moving out, a $500 per month apartment near campus would still help your bottom line.
  • Make minor lifestyle adjustments: If your student is just entering junior year of high school, that means you have roughly two years before they head off to college. That’s 730 days of expensive lattes, going out to eat instead of dining in, and all the other expenditures that seem trivial until you add up the costs. By making minor lifestyle adjustments—even if just for the next two years—you can give your savings account a sizable padding.
  • Select an investment vehicle: There are many ways to invest your savings. Some accrue interest more quickly than others. Speak with a bank representative about your student’s goals, your timeframe and the amount of money you’re looking to save and you’ll be able to find the right strategy for your family.

The sooner you start planning for your child’s future, the easier time you’ll have when that future becomes the present. Come down to any Milford Bank branch location and start earning your education on saving for college today.