Don’t Miss Our Website’s Hidden Treasures

by Lynn Viesti Berube

If you’ve stopped by one of our office locations and spoken with one of our experienced and friendly employees, you already know about the superior financial services The Milford Bank can provide to help you make the most out of your money. But did you know that there are a variety of resources located on our website for your convenience as well?

In the interest of helping you get the best education possible, we’ve filled our website with financial resources that you can access conveniently anywhere you go. From programs to teach your children about savings, guides to teach you about saving for retirement and everything in between, your Milford Bank experience isn’t complete without checking out all our website has to offer.

In case you’ve missed them, here are some of the hidden treasures placed on our website to help you and your family make smart financial decisions.

Cent$ible Kid$: Teaching your children about the value of saving money can be difficult. That’s why we created the Cent$ible Kid$ program. Your kids can learn how to manage and reinvest their savings with three interactive games right on our site. The program also comes complete with a child-friendly quarterly newsletter full of advice for your kids. As a Cent$ible Kid$ program member, you and your children will also qualify for incentives and special offers from Milford Bank. You can check out the Cent$ible Kid$ program here.

Learning Center: If you’ve got a financial question you need answered but it’s after hours, head to the learning center. You can find answers to your questions easily, whether it’s as simple as explaining how savings bonds work or as complex as planning your estate. There are a dozen unique sections in the learning center that cover a wide variety of topics, each complete with its own downloadable guide. You can reach the Learning Center by clicking here.

Financial Calculators: Are you curious about buying a house and want to quickly figure out the price difference between a 15 and 30 year mortgage? Are you trying to determine whether or not to consolidate your debt? Do you want to know how long it would take you to become a millionaire with your current saving strategy? You can use our financial calculators to get a quick answer to these questions and many more by simply clicking here. Using financial calculators can help provide context to the financial decisions in your life that seem too large to wrap your head around and give you a clear directive on how best to proceed.

At The Milford Bank we want you to have an unforgettable and informative experience with us, whether you’re depositing a check with one of our tellers or skimming over our website on a mobile device from the comfort of home. That’s why we’ve populated our website with these features. But there are even more hidden treasures than those mentioned above. Check out our page here and see what else you can find!

When Should You Start Saving for Retirement?

by Patty Gallagher

Even if you love your job, you’re probably looking forward to the day you punch your last time card and can begin your retirement. But while you may have a 401K and social security coming your way, the bulk of your retirement stash may still fall on you and your ability to save.

With that said, when should you start saving for retirement?

It is never too soon.

Relying solely on a 401K or social security can be a risky bet. Your 401K is tied to the success of the stock market. Even if your 401K performs well for 30 years, a sudden economic downturn could erase your earnings just when you need them.

Social security, too, is growing increasingly uncertain. According to 2015 findings from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the ratio of workers to SSA beneficiaries is currently at a record low of 2.8. (By comparison, when social security was first rolled out, there were 41 workers supporting the program for every social security recipient.) As the baby boomer generation ages that number is anticipated to continue shrinking, raising questions about the long-term viability of the program as it currently exists.

Both of these pillars of retirement planning can be highly unpredictable. That’s why it is so important to begin planning your retirement savings early.

To ensure a long and happy retirement, here are the two easiest and most impactful things you can do:

Change your spending habits: Increasing your savings for retirement isn’t just about earning as much as you can during your working career. Making slight lifestyle adjustments to alter how you spend that money can have just as large an impact. What is that five-dollar specialty Starbucks drink you get every day worth to you? Over the course of a 40-year work history, it would add up to $73,000—more than enough for a down payment to help you move into a relaxing, beachfront condo.

Diversify your investments: While your 401K can be viewed as a risky investment, it is still a safe harbor for your savings as long as you have other types of investments for balance. Certificates of deposit, savings bonds, annuities and IRAs are other financial tools that can provide safekeeping for your savings. Or, if you’re handy enough to take care of your own repairs, real estate can also be a good place for your money. In an economic downturn, gold and silver prices typically do well by comparison, so having a small supply of precious metals might provide an additional safety net.

To learn more about how you can prepare for a prosperous retirement, stop by any office of The Milford Bank and speak with a financial expert.

Lifestyles of the Broke and Famous

by Mark Attanasio

Many people look to celebrities as an embodiment of the American Dream. Whether it’s an athlete inking a $100 million contract, a musician reaping the rewards of a platinum album or an actor raking in gold from an appearance on the silver screen, the rest of us see these individuals as the lucky ones that hit it big.

While it might seem like they’ll never have to worry about money again, the truth is that many celebrities end up in the same dire financial straits as the rest of us. Financial success isn’t only about how much money you’re bringing in, but rather how well you manage your assets, control your spending and avoid risky and potentially costly life choices.

Here are several high-profile names and their stories to serve as a reminder of the fact that financial success has less to do with your paycheck than you might think.

Nicolas Cage: Between 1996 and 2011, Cage banked over $150 million from his prolific acting career. He proceeded to spend it all on a lavish lifestyle revolving around sports cars, exotic pets, a rare collection of dinosaur fossils and private islands in the Caribbean. By the time the IRS came calling for its share—$13 million—the money was gone.

Reality check: It doesn’t matter how much you earn if you don’t put any money away for a rainy day.

Fred and Jeff Wilpon: The Wilpon brothers, majority owners of the New York Mets baseball team, became protagonists in a financial cautionary tale in 2008 when news broke that their fortune was ensnared in the ponzi scheme orchestrated by investment advisor Bernie Madoff. The Madoff case was discovered to be the largest financial fraud case in U.S. history and cost the Wilpon family between $500-700 million. They nearly had to sell their beloved franchise, but were eventually able to deal with their reversal of fortune.

Reality check: Even if you have entrusted the management of your finances to a professional, stay involved and know how your funds are being handled. Nobody, not even an advisor, will be more concerned about your bottom line than you are.

Willie Nelson: This legendary country music singer is perhaps as famous for his run-ins with the law as he is for his boisterous stage presence. Despite his commercial success, Nelson ran into tough times over the course of his career thanks to unpaid tax bills and a series of drug-related offenses that have cost him mightily over the years.

Reality check: Crime doesn’t pay. If you party like a rock star, you may end up broke as your life savings end up in the pockets of lawyers.

At The Milford Bank, our goal is to help you make the smart decisions with your money. Stop by any of our offices to learn more about protecting your wealth.

Think Your Old Phone is Worthless? Think Again.

by Sindy Berkowitz

Imagine walking into a Porsche dealership and offering up an old cell phone as your payment. Not even just a down payment—the whole thing. You’d probably be laughed out the door. Finding someone willing to make such a lopsided deal might seem impossible, but believe it or not, one California teenager was actually able to accomplish the task.

Steven Ortiz, a 17-year-old from California, started out with an old cell phone given to him for free by a friend. After browsing the bartering page of Craigslist, he realized he could potentially turn trash into treasure.

Over the course of two years, Ortiz made 14 trades before ending up with a 2000 Porsche Boxster. He first traded for a better phone, then up to an iPod Touch. From there, he bartered his way to a dirt bike. After trading several dirt bikes, Ortiz found himself with a MacBook Pro. With a brand new laptop, the ingenious teenager was able to upgrade to a Toyota 4Runner and promptly swap the vehicle for a customized golf cart. After a series of trades involving dirt bikes, street bikes and beat up old cars, Ortiz found himself with a 1975 Ford Bronco. From there, Ortiz was able to trade for the Porsche.

Not a bad investment, considering that he started out with a free cell phone.

But besides being an interesting story, there’s a lesson here. How often have you simply given or thrown away something without giving it a second thought? With a little patience, careful research and a willingness to negotiate, you can take Ortiz’s example and turn some of the unused items in your home into something valuable.

There’s also another lesson here: Sites like Craigslist, Ebay and Amazon can be bountiful for individuals willing to get creative and apply a little elbow grease. In another highly publicized example from 2008, a man in Canada was able to work his way from being the owner of a single paperclip to becoming a homeowner in Saskatchewan, a province of Canada.

Even without relying on the bartering section of the site, such sites offer plenty of other ways to earn extra income. Buying used furniture and restoring it to increase its value is one such way. There are even websites with free items that simply require your time and energy to pick up. Anything sold would be pure profit!

The old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is alive and well in the digital economy. While it certainly wouldn’t be prudent to bet your retirement on bartering cell phones and paperclips, a world of opportunity exists to gain supplemental income from goods you may be ready to discard.

To hear about some of the more traditional means by which you can improve your financial outlook, stop by any office of The Milford Bank and talk to us about your goals.


Are You Financially Ready for an Emergency?

by Celeste Lohrenz

By nature, personal finances are those monetary concerns that keep us, individually, up at night. We all adopt our own tactics and tricks to keep on top of our bills, rent/mortgage payments and other expenses, but some of us have more complicated assets than others and may need professional guidance from time to time. If you’re at the point where your personal wealth management has not led to the rewards you were anticipating, consider collaborating with our in-house financial advisors, John Kuehnle.

Regardless of the condition of your personal finances, John Kuehnle can help you get them in shape. After all, you never know when a situation may arise that requires someone besides yourself to sort through your personal finances on your behalf.

To avoid a worst-case scenario—where your assets are inaccessible due to outdated paperwork or ineffective management—follow these quick tips:

• Consolidate and back up: There is nothing wrong with keeping paper records as many of us do, but if you decide to go this route it is a good idea to keep them all in one organized, central and secure location. By doing so, you can easily share the information with trusted family, In Case of Emergency (ICE) contacts and financial advisors/attorneys. You may also want to make duplicate digital copies as a backup. Given how easy it is to back up your files up to a cloud server these days, taking this extra precaution may be wise. Files can be encrypted for security purposes and the cloud will keep them safe in case of a fire or destruction of your hard copies.

• Make a plan: It’s never fun to think about worst-case scenarios, but doing so ahead of time may save you many headaches down the road. It is a good idea to create a financial plan for common emergencies like serious illness, property destruction, natural disasters and any other scenario that could leave you unable to handle your own personal finances. Then, share that plan with the appropriate parties, make sure they understand how you would want your finances handled and, again, store these plans in a secure and central location for easy access.

• Continue to update: Having a budget is a smart financial decision, but many people create that budget for a designated time frame, file it away and never look at it again. It is a good idea to continually updating your budget, whether that means once a month or every six months. Having a sound financial plan that outlines when bills are due, for example, can aid others who are helping to keep you on top of your finances when you can’t do so yourself.

• Create an emergency savings account: While your personal finances should be accessible in case of an emergency, as discussed above, it is also helpful to start an emergency savings account. One that you can add to on a regular basis and has a low or no minimum balance requirement is preferred so it can be deeply tapped in case of emergency without penalty.
Personal finances can be complicated, but once you’ve gotten on top of them, they can be a piece of cake to manage. If you need help getting to a good place with your assets, reach out to us at 203-783-5700.

Protecting your finances following divorce

By Celeste Lohrenz

Separating from a spouse is not an easy time. Still, important decisions need to be made related to your finances.

Following a separation, you should figure out how to live on your own income. You also should learn about what is going to become of your retirement assets, what Social Security benefits you might be entitled to and whether you are properly insured.

During such time, it’s important that you make informed decisions relating to your finances. Consider the following tips:

  • First thing is first: You’re going to need to make sure your financial accounts are registered in your name. That may mean closing previously shared accounts and opening new accounts in your name alone. You may want to consider consulting a tax professional to understand your tax responsibilities to avoid any unanticipated surprises.
  • You always need to look at your credit score. The financial burden of divorce may have impacted your credit. Be sure to review your credit history and take measures to repair your credit, if necessary.Chances are you’ll have to figure out how to live on one income. Figure out which expenses you can’t avoid paying every month—like food, utilities, transportation and housing—and then determine how much discretionary spending you can afford on top of that.
  • Try to live within your means, as you don’t want to find yourself accumulating more debt.
  • It’s probably time to update your estate planning as well. Have your beneficiaries changed following a divorce? Have you designated legal guardians for your children? It is likely time to update your will, as well.
  • You should also review your retirement planning. Following a divorce, IRAs are often split via a one-time distribution without early withdrawal penalties. You need to make sure that you’re financially secure over the long haul, so you might want to consider making use of investment services to begin planning for your future.
  • You still may be entitled to Social Security benefits. Under the government assistance program, you may be entitled to half of your former spouse’s benefits, assuming those benefits are greater than what you’d be able to get through your own benefits.

Separating from a spouse is never an easy thing for a variety of reasons. But by being aware of various monetary considerations that result from such a separation, you can thus begin making better-informed financial decisions.

How do I calculate my net worth?

by Patty Gallagher

Do you know how much money you would amass if you paid off all of your debts and sold all of your assets?

That number is referred to as your net worth. While we would all like our net worth numbers to be near those of Warren Buffet ($65.1 billion) and Bill Gates ($79.1 billion), the truth is there is no “magic” number we for which we should strive. Rather, we should aim for a year-over-year improvement upon that number.

Believe it or not, calculating your net worth is relatively easy. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. You will first want to put together a list of all of your assets. This will include things like your checking and savings account balances, the value of your stocks and bond holdings, any property you might own and expensive items like cars, jewelry, boats and valuable art. You can include whatever else you want into that mix, but for all intents and purposes, that list should likely suffice. (In other words, you might not want to include your DVD collection or that old guitar into this calculation.)
  2. Now it is time to figure out how many liabilities you have. Liabilities include any debts you have incurred such as: student loans, mortgages, credit card balances and car loans. Gather all of those numbers in one place and add them up.
  3. Now it’s time to subtract your liabilities from your assets. That difference is your net worth. No matter what the number is—positive, negative or zero—you should simply focus on improving it every year.

Be aware, that it’s not that uncommon to have zero net worth , as some estimates indicate as many as half of the country has zero net worth, meaning their assets equal their debts.

You might even have a negative net worth. After all, you might have just bought a new house and have a large mortgage or may have just graduated college or graduate school and are still carrying hefty student loans. Neither of those scenarios are necessarily bad things. The good news is that improving your net worth doable. Every time you chisel away at your liabilities, your net worth goes up. Similarly, every time you pad your assets, your net worth increases.

Facts About Current American Net Worth

Every quarter, the Federal Reserve calculates the net worth of American households. Most recently, the banking institution pegged that number at $81.764 trillion—the highest it’s ever been. Following the first quarter of 2009, collective American net worth stood at $55.71 trillion, meaning the number has increased by almost 50 percent in just five short years.

There are roughly 115 million households in the United States, which means that on a per household basis, Americans have $301,000 in assets and are free and clear of debt, according to CNN. Of course, those at the top of the proverbial financial food chain skew those numbers. In fact, America’s median net worth is $45,000. So while the country ranks fourth in the world in terms of average net worth, it ranks 19th in the world in terms of median net worth.

Three Things You Wish You Knew about Finance in Your 20s

Hindsight is an amazing thing, particularly in the world of finance. Take our word for it because we’ve lived through those years: There are a whole lot of things we know now about finance that we wish we did when we were in our 20s. But, like you, we were too busy getting our first jobs, moving into our first places and starting families of our own.
The world of finance is complex, and the list of advice we could give you could span volumes. But we figured to start small, so here are three things those in their 20s should take to heart right away:
1. It’s never too soon to start saving. Many people live paycheck to paycheck. While some have to, others don’t. The fact is you’ll never amass the kind of fortune you want if you don’t spend less than you bring in. Whether it’s choosing to cook dinner at home a few times more a week or waiting an extra year to upgrade your smartphone, make sure to put money into a savings account to build up a nice cushion. You can do that by moving in with your parents for a few years after college or at least living with roommates for a bit, too.

2. Start putting money in your 401(k) as soon as possible. When you get your first job out of college, retirement is probably the last thing on your mind. But if your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you should take advantage of it. Trust us. These retirements accounts are tax-deferred, meaning your pretax dollars are invested in mutual funds and grow accordingly over time. Sure, you’ll have to pay taxes when you withdraw from the account in retirement, but your money will grow significantly before then. What’s more, many employers offer matching plans, meaning they will contribute to your account in some fashion. Consider it a bonus of sorts.

3. There is something called compounding, and it’s a beautiful thing. Money that is invested grows over time. Consider this: If you were to open a Roth IRA investment account with the $5,000 your generous grandmother gave you on your college graduation day and you earned an average of eight percent on that investment each year, by the time you retired, the money will have grown to $154,000. If you were to wait to do the same thing on your 40th birthday, however, that money would grow into a little more than $34,000 by the time you turned 65.

Why Nonprofits Need a Personal Financial Touch

By John Kuehnle

At The Milford Bank, we pride ourselves on our commitment to nonprofits—and a large number of them have certainly captured our attention and hearts.

Nonprofits are just like any other business in the sense that they need help with managing their finances and investments. After all, the more money such organizations are able to generate and save, the better position they are in to fulfill their mission. But just as it’s imperative for donors to find the right nonprofits to support—those that resonate with their core values—it’s important for nonprofits to find the right financial advisors that seem aligned with the organization’s mission. For nonprofits, it’s not about seeing a quick return necessarily; rather, it’s about helping position themselves in ways that ensure long-term financial vitality.

Our customers take comfort in the fact we are so immersed in the Milford and Stratford communities, one we know so well and have served for over 140 years. We participate in the Boys & Girls Club Pumpkins on the Pier; the Milford Rotary’s Lobster Bake; and the Devon Rotary’s Oktoberfest, among other events. In other words, we welcome the opportunity to give back. Because of our rich history, we offer a personal touch that our competitors simply cannot. We do more than simply hand out donations to help organizations grow. We protect your assets and enhance your visibility. We offer solutions. We look out for your best interests and are wholeheartedly committed to helping you thoroughly accomplish your goals.

No matter the mission of the nonprofit, organizations must manage their finances under the specific constraints of the 501(c)(3) tax code. Rather than directing lots of organizational resources toward understanding the complexities of such a code and navigating under its structure successfully, nonprofits should partner with knowledgeable financiers who have navigated such waters countless times.

Nonprofits certainly have a lot of options regarding the banking institution with which they choose to partner. But a majority of those banks will simply offer traditional accounts and investment services—and nothing more. With our intricate knowledge of what makes Milford and Stratford tick, we at The Milford Bank are confident that we’ll be able to help your nonprofit organization attain the financial security you deserve.

You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers. We can’t wait to get the conversation started.