Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

10 Tips to Green Your Home and $ave Money

FCB_ICONS_LightbulbWhether you’re a renter or a homeowner, chances are you care about protecting the environment – and saving money. Here are some tips from the American Bankers Association to help you do both.

Location, location, location efficiency.
Carefully consider the location of your home. If you’re close to work, shopping and entertainment, you may not need a car. Without a car you would save money on gas, car insurance and maintenance, not to mention reduce pollution. If you’re thinking about moving further away, try to find something near public transportation and shopping.

Light up the house, not the electric bill. 
Replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs will save you about $6 a year in electricity costs per bulb and more than $40 over its lifetime. According to ENERGY STAR, if every American home replaced just one light bulb, we would save enough energy to prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Remember to recycle used CFL bulbs. Go to www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling​ for recycling locations.

Some like it hot, hot, hot…or cold, cold, cold. 
Closely monitor your thermostat. Adjusting it just a few degrees while you’re out can save energy and money. You can make it easier by installing a programmable thermostat. Use fans and close the blinds during the warm months and let the sun in for natural warmth in the winter. Also, change your filter every three months.

How low can you go?
One way to save water is by using low-flow toilets. The most cost-effective way to do this is to simply take a 1 liter plastic bottle, fill it with water and place it inside the tank. This will reduce your water use per flush. Another way to save water is placing an aerator on all of your faucets.

Make it mean-green-clean. 
Cleaning supplies can be expensive and are made with toxic chemicals. You can save money and the environment by making your own cleaning supplies. All you need are some basic household ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and borax to clean everything from windows to tile. Look online for recipes and suggestions.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 
Sticking to this mantra can help you save money around the house. Use a rag instead of paper towels. Buy products in bulk, concentrate or refillable containers to reduce packaging waste. Look for products made from recycled content. And don’t forget to recycle!

Win-dos for your windows. 
There are a number of ways you can make your windows more energy efficient without replacing them. For better insulation from the weather you can caulk exterior joints, put shrink wrap on them or hang blackout curtains.

Fan the green flames.
To keep your refrigerator running efficiently, keep the fan clean. The motor won’t have to work as hard if the fan is clear of debris.

Decorate green. 
Houseplants are like living air-filters. English Ivy, rubber trees, peace lilies and red-edged dracaena can help clean the air and look pretty too.

Vampire energy is sucking you dry. 
On or off, anything plugged into the wall sucks energy. Vampire power costs U.S. consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Unplug your electronics and appliances when they’re not in use.

 

Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

6 Financial Traps New College Graduates Should Avoid

FCB_GradCapAs college seniors across the nation graduate and start their careers, their financial lifestyle should be top of mind, says the American Bankers Association. ABA has highlighted six traps new college graduates should avoid to fortify their finances as they transition from the dorm to the office.

“Now is the time for college grads to get their financial life started on the right foot,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “When it comes to managing your finances in the real world, pulling an all-nighter isn’t the best strategy.  Forming positive financial habits today will set you up for lifelong success.”

According to the ABA, new college graduates should avoid the following financial traps:

  • Not having a budget.  Don’t spend more than you make. Calculate the amount of money you’re taking home after taxes, then figure out how much money you can afford to spend each month while contributing to your savings. Be sure to factor in recurring expenses such as student loans, monthly rent, utilities, groceries, transportation expenses and car loans.
  • Forgoing an emergency fund.  Make it a priority to set aside the equivalent of three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount. A bank savings account is a smart place to stash your cash for a rainy day. Use your tax refund for this instead of an impulse buy.
  • Paying bills late – or not at all. Each missed payment can hurt your credit history for up to seven years, and can affect your ability to get loans, the interest rates you pay and your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. Consider setting up automatic payments for regular expenses like student loans, car payments and phone bills.
  • Racking up debt. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit.  Shop around for a card that best suits your needs, and spend only what you can afford to pay back. Credit is a great tool, but only if you use it responsibly.
  • Not thinking about the future.  It may seem odd since you’re just beginning your career, but now is the best time to start planning for your retirement. Contribute to your employer’s 401(k) or similar account, especially if there is a company match. Invest enough to qualify for your company’s full match – it’s free money that adds up to a significant chunk of change over the years.
  • Ignoring help from your bank. Most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day.  Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, monitor transaction history and track budgets.
Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Trends & Tips

6 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Finances

FCB_ICONS_ClockAs spring cleaning season begins, the American Bankers Association is encouraging consumers to put a priority on organizing their finances. ABA has highlighted six tips for getting your financial house in order.

“With the tax season ending, spring is a great time to take a close look at your budget and bank account,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “You’ll have a clear picture of your financial situation, and you can make stress-reducing moves now that will pay dividends throughout the year.”

ABA recommends these six tips to help consumers organize their finances:

  • Evaluate and pay down debt. Take a look at how much you owe and what you are paying in interest. Begin paying off existing debt, whether that’s by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
  • Review your budget. A lot can change in a year. If you’ve been promoted, had a child, or become a new homeowner or renter, be sure to update your budget. Determine what expenses demand the most money and identify areas where you can realistically cut back. Develop a strategy for spending and saving – and stick to it.
  • Check your credit report. Every year, you are guaranteed one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports and check them for any possible errors. Mistakes can drag down your score and prevent you from getting a loan, or cause you to pay a higher than necessary interest rate.
  • Download your bank’s mobile app. From the palm of your hand, you can make a deposit or access a record of all your recent transactions. Be sure to download the latest updates when they are available.
  • Sign up for e-statements, paperless billing and text alerts. Converting to paperless billing will help keep your house—physical and financial—more clean and organized, and will help protect you from fraud.
  • Set up automatic bill pay. By signing up for automatic bill pay, you’ll never have to worry about a missed payment impacting your credit score. You can set it so that money is withdrawn from your checking account on the same day each month.
Trends & Tips

8 Ways to Stop an Identity Thief

FCB_IdentityProtectMore than 15.4 million Americans were victims of identity fraud last year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. The American Bankers Association is offering eight tips to help consumers protect their information to avoid becoming a victim.

“Identity fraud continues to be a major problem for consumers,” said Doug Johnson, ABA’s senior vice president of payments and cybersecurity policy. “Fortunately, there are ways consumers can protect themselves, like being cautious about what information they share and who they share it with, especially online.”

ABA suggests following these eight tips:

  • Don’t share your secrets. Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.
  • Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements and other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.
  • Use online banking to protect yourself. Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
  • Monitor your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.
  • Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.
  • Protect your mobile device. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.

Report any suspected fraud immediately.

In Our Community, Trends & Tips

“Tips from the Experts to Drive Your Business”

Mark Rosenbloom

Mark Rosenbloom

Mark Rosenbloom, Vice President & Manager, Cash Management Services Department will be moderating a business panel discussion, “Stay Relevant in Today’s Changing Marketplace” on Wednesday, May 17th at the Darien Library. This forum is free and open to anyone who wants to hear from local business experts on how they navigate today’s marketplace.

Panel members include:

  • Cindy Palmer Dean, Owner and Creative Director at Palmer’s Market in Darien.
  • Doug Campbell, Executive and Career Consultant/Coach, Business Owner, Author, National Speaker and Innovator.
  • Brian Jarvis, SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” Volunteer.
  • Peter Belbita, Founder, Noble House Creative Group

You may arrive at 5:30 p.m. to sign-in and submit questions you want answered by the panel. The discussion begins at 5:45 p.m. Please register in advance at darienctchamber.com.

First County Bank Profile, Trends & Tips

Business Banking with Sara Tucker

senior vice president, director of business banking

Sara Tucker

Meet Sara Tucker, Senior Vice President, Director Business Banking.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I came to First County Bank two years ago with over twenty-five years of experience in the commercial banking world. Much of my prior experience consisted of a mix of community banks and larger institutions. I was eager to start at First County Bank as I enjoy working in a community setting, helping small and medium-sized businesses find customized solutions to achieve their goals.

What financial solutions do we offer for small businesses?
Our Business Banking Department offers a variety of financial solutions for small businesses, from cash management services to cost-effective business checking accounts. We work diligently to create customized solutions for our clients to help them achieve their goals, typically centered on growth and expansion of their business.

Our latest financial solution is our BusinessFirst Express Loan. This fintech financial solution, offers streamlined financing options for businesses that are in need of quick access to funds. The BusinessFirst Express loan is available for loans or lines of credit up to $100,000, with funds available as soon as 7 business days after the application is completed.

How do these solutions benefit small businesses?
We are leveraging technology to create a better banking experience for our customers. The BusinessFirst Express Loan helps provide a quick access to capital, while Cash Management services such as Positive Pay defends transactions against check or ACH fraud.

We are dedicated to providing our customers with the resources to meet their goals – whether that is through customized solutions or listening to our customers and developing products to meet their specific needs, like the BusinessFirst Express Loan.

What success story can you share of how a business has benefited from these services?
A local nonprofit had expansion plans; however, they were struggling to find a flexible line of credit option. After meeting with members of our team, we worked with them to provide a flexible solution with customized pricing to fit their specific needs.

Not only were we able to provide them with a financial solution, we were able to provide them with a competitive suite of cash management services that would help sustain and improve their daily cash flow operations.

 

Promotional Initiatives, Trends & Tips

We Celebrate Business Banking Year-Round

FCB-BizFirstExpressFacebookAdIn 2015, we recognized a need for businesses to have quick access to funds. We understood that small businesses, in particular, had the greatest need for a streamlined financing option which would get them cash when it was needed – not several months later.

Throughout 2016, various departments across the Bank came together to solve this issue. Responding to the need for business customers to have expedited access to funds, we teamed-up with Fundation™, a fintech platform, and designed and launched the BusinessFirst Express Loan™ for loan requests up to $100,000. This streamlined, financing solution offers:

  • Approval as soon as 48 hours
  • Funds as soon as 7 business days
  • An online application for convenience
  • Both Term Loan and Line of Credit options
  • Potential funding options from First County Bank or Fundation™

“First County Bank understands the unique needs of small business and we developed the BusinessFirst Express Loan™ to provide businesses with accelerated access to funds,” said Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr. chairman and CEO of First County Bank. “It makes sense for the Bank to partner with Fundation™. Through this streamlined fintech solution, we can provide more business lending options with impressive turnaround times.”

Small Business Profile, Trends & Tips

Kicking off Small Business Week

NSBW_Banner_New (1)This week, National Small Business Week will be celebrated across the country. We constantly hear the challenges and successes of starting and maintaining a small business; however, we don’t hear enough about the impact small businesses make in our community.

Here are some eye-opening trends from the Small Business Administration – “Small Business, Big Impact!

  • The 28 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.
  • The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people.
  • The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.
  • Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs.

We look forward to celebrating Small Business Week by highlighting business events in our community and financial solutions for small businesses. You can participate by shopping local and continuing to support local, small businesses.

Trends & Tips

Expectations for the 2017 Housing Market

Entering the Housing MarketIn 2016 we saw the housing market become very competitive. There was an influx of buyers, but the number of sellers seemed to plateau. Many factors made 2016 interesting, such as continued record-low rates, a perceived lack of new home production from builders, and the millennial market began to show interest in buying homes. A “Housing Outlook for 2017” article from Forbes, discusses eight predictions for 2017 covering similarities and differences from 2016.

Here are some of the expectations for 2017:

  1. Prices will continue to rise—but more slowly. Real estate brokerage Redfin, “expects the median home sale prices to gain 5.3% in 2017 compared to 2016.” David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices added to the conversation stating, “With the current high consumer confidence numbers and low unemployment rate, affordability trends do not suggest an immediate reversal in home price trends.”
  2. Credit availability will improve—maybe. While the Trump Administration has not set out to directly impact the housing market, expected changes and deregulation of the Dodd-Frank Act could have an effect on banks and their ability to provide loans to a larger variety of buyers.
  3. More millennials will become homeowners—and renters. “According to Zillow half of all buyers are under age 36 … Of course much of this is due to the fact that Millennials—adults born after 1980—are now the largest adult generation and make up the greatest percentage of the workforce.”
  4. Competition will grow. Redfin began measuring the average time that homes were on the market in 2009. In 2016, Redfin recorded the average time was just 52 days. It is expected that this time will be even shorter in 2017.

If you’re considering entering the housing market in 2017, it will be vital for you to know and understand what is happening in the market. To read more of the Forbes article, click here. If you’re looking for more personal information on your situation and surrounding market, talk to one of our Mortgage Experts.

Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

How we Celebrate America Saves Week

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Brooke Ann Bean of Stamford is presented with a $1,000 check as our First-Ever FirstPrize $avings Winner.

We understand the importance, but also the challenge of putting extra cash aside. Building your savings is a challenging task for most Americans. America Saves Week was established in 2007 to promote savings and the positive benefits of this difficult task.

At First County Bank, we promote savings every week of the year, and developed the FirstPrize $avings Account to make savings more enjoyable. This account allows you to build your savings while earning chances to win $1,000. Every month, the first ten deposits of at least $25 into the account automatically earn entries for a chance to win!1  It’s only appropriate that America Saves Week is the same week as our second drawing period. We’re excited to announce that, we will soon have our second FirstPrize $avings $1,000 Winner!

Saving is a challenge. However there’s no reason it can’t be exciting at the same time. If you’re ready to shake things up and turn saving into a positive experience, talk to your local banker or visit one of our branches to open a FirstPrize $avings account. To learn more about the FirstPrize $avings Account, click here or visit the link below.

http://firstcountybank.com/firstprize-savings

 

1 Refer to http://www.firstcountybank.com/savings-account-disclosure for account official rules and disclosure.