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.

Trends & Tips

Brace Yourself – It’s Tax Season

Calculator&MoneyStackLet’s face it – other than the turbulent election season, tax season, year-after-year takes the crown as the least favorite time period for the average American. As if tax season isn’t difficult enough, there are some notable changes from 2016 that you should be aware of as you begin your tax preparations for the 2017 tax season, provided by LegalZoom®.

  • Due to a new law, delays on tax refunds are expected. Typically the best part of tax season, the refund, will be delayed for thousands of middle- and low-income taxpayers who file early. This is due to a new law, in which the IRS is working to reduce tax fraud and identity theft. You will get your refund, just be aware it may take a little longer than usual.
  • Business partnerships have a new filing deadline. “As a result of legislation enacted in 2015, some businesses will have new filing due dates this spring. Beginning with the 2017 tax season, business partnership tax returns—Form 1065—will have a new filing deadline of March 15.” said Greg Lindberg of LegalZoom®.
  • If you’ve prepared a budget, set aside extra money now. While we would normally discourage bonuses and refunds from factoring into your yearly budget, we strongly recommend preparing for a delay in your tax refund. Reallocating your expenses now will help ensure you do not experience a financial short fall when the tax refund is delayed.

To continue reading, “What to Know and How to Prepare for the 2017 Tax Season” click here. To learn how these changes may affect you or for more personal help, talk to your local banker by calling or visiting any of our branches

Trends & Tips

Budgeting for 2017

Budget Pie ChartWe’re just over a month into the new year and some of you may be well on your way to accomplishing those New Year’s resolutions, while others may be off to a slow start. For many, the start of a new year is a time to set financial goals and actually set-up a budget to be followed. If you’re struggling to stay on track with your budget or quite frankly don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. According to The Motley Fool, “in a recent U.S. Bank study, roughly 60% of Americans admitted that they don’t follow a budget.” Here are five budgeting tips that The Motley Fool offers as a starting point, which we think are worth looking into.

  1. Accuracy is key – The Motley Fool uses the term “accuracy” but this can be used interchangeably with “reality.” You need to be accurate and realistic with your budgeting. “Case in point: your electric bill. You’ll probably pay more during the summer, when your air conditioner is perpetually blasting on high, than during the spring, when you’re using much less energy. But basing your monthly electricity costs on the $80 bill you typically get in April or May might cause you to fall short when you get a $250 bill in July. That’s why you’ll need to review your spending throughout the year rather than rely on a single snapshot.”
  2. Account for one-time expenses – Yearly or one-time expenses may send you spiraling into debt in a certain month. To allow for more breathing-room and to properly allocate those big expenses, don’t be afraid to split up that yearly membership fee or maintenance fee throughout all twelve months.
  3. Don’t include your bonus – This tip relates back to #1 – be accurate and realistic. If you’re trying to make your budget as realistic/accurate as possible, remember that your bonus is not guaranteed. Try to not include it in your budget, because it could cause you to come-up short.
  4. Update as you go – Don’t be afraid to update your budget as you go. Just because prices fluctuate does not mean you did not stay to your budget or factor in expenses accurately.
  5. Always include a line item for savings – Every budget has its expenses, but a spot for savings is often overlooked. No matter what you’re saving for, The Motley Fool suggests allocating at least 10% of every paycheck for a savings account – and we agree.

Creating a budget and mapping out expenses is a difficult task. But when it comes to staying disciplined and following that budget, creating often seems like the easy part. Budgeting takes time and perseverance but we encourage everyone to try it as it can be rewarding and lead to financial empowerment. If you’re ready to start budgeting or are struggling to stay committed, talk with your local banker by calling or visiting one of our branches.

Trends & Tips

Business Banking for Businesses

BusinessPeople IconAs any business owner knows, when your business grows and the need for more advanced transactions build, “nominal” fees begin to add up. No matter the size of your business, business banking fees can diminish growth. Before you know it, you start spending more time trying to avoid excess fees than you do trying to build your business, and the thought of switching banks is too much of a time-consuming option.

At First County Bank we understand your business banking needs, which is why we avoid the stress of business banking fees altogether. Our business checking account, BusinessFirst Checking1, could save you up to $250 each month in business banking fees!2 With our account you avoid monthly maintenance fees, have no minimum balance, enjoy unlimited check writing, unlimited deposits, unlimited bill payments and much more. Whether you’re an established business or a start-up, our BusinessFirst Checking account is where we put your business first.

If you’re looking to make the switch to our BusinessFirst Checking account, know someone who should, or want to do a cost comparison to see how much you could save, visit any of our branches or call our Business Banking team at 203.462.4379.

1 See Business Deposit Account Schedule of Charges and Cash Management/Business Online Banking Agreements for details regarding fees, funds availability, security requirements, and other terms and conditions.

2 Savings estimate based on fees for Positive Pay and Remote Deposit Capture being waived for six months and an estimate of charges you are paying on your existing bank account. Ask us for details.

Trends & Tips

What exactly are Cash Management Services?

ImprovingCreditCash Management Services is a phrase used quite often when it comes to business banking – but what are they really? Cash Management Services assist businesses in terms of “cash” related operations, such as Merchant Deposits,1 which assists in credit card processing; Payroll Services,2 which helps you pay your employees and complete taxes; as well as many other services in between.

Additions to Cash Management Services address the growing and challenging trends of not only how a business is managed financially, by protecting those finances through anti-fraud services. An up-and-coming cash management tool to defend against fraud is Positive Pay. Positive Pay helps oversee each and every check-related transaction throughout the day to assist you in preventing fraud. Cash Management Services are increasingly becoming the “go-to” tools for businesses in order to better manage day-to-day cash-flow.

If you want to learn more about First County Bank-specific Cash Management Services or how Cash Management Services can better assist your business’s day-to-day cash-flow, contact our Cash Management Department by calling 203.462.4379 or by visiting any of our branches.

1Merchant services are provided through Direct Connect, which is not owned or operated by First County Bank.
2Payroll services are provided through Pay USA, Inc., which is not owned or operated by First County Bank.

 

Trends & Tips

2017 Financial Resolutions to Consider

papercheckIn a recent Forbes Article, writer Andrew Josuweit discusses top financial resolutions in 2017. Josuweit begins the article by stating, “If you’re among the third who aren’t planning to set a financial goal for the New Year, you might want to reconsider. About half of resolution-setters achieved 80 percent or more of their financial goal in 2016, according to a survey from Fidelity Investments.” Define financial resolutions as you set your goals for the New Year.

  1. Build an Emergency Fund – “An emergency fund is your first line of defense against financial hardship.”
  1. Save for Retirement – Whatever your retirement goals are, use 2017 as the year you began your retirement savings.
  1. Buy a House – According to Josuweit, purchasing a home is high on the list for many people as they welcome 2017. If you’re a potential homebuyer in the New Year, understanding the process is just as important as finding the home of your dreams. Here are three questions to consider:
    • How does this affect your overall wealth management plan?
    • Have you determined how much house you can afford?
    • How well do you understand the market, as well as your personal mortgage and home equity needs?

Let 2017 be the year of hope and empowerment for you, as you build financial freedom and personal wealth. Accomplishing these resolutions is no easy task – what makes them easy, is having an advisor you can trust. Talk to your banker about helping you plan your journey to achieve your financial goals.

Trends & Tips

Tips for Better Business Banking in 2017

ImprovingCredit

It’s hard to believe 2017 is already here. Just as we were getting comfortable with 2016, the New Year is upon us. Some of the biggest questions of a new year are What will it bring?, What will the trends be?, and What should we expect?

It’s no surprise that many early predictions see technology continuing its upward trend in use and accessibility. At First County Bank, we understand the needs of small businesses, and have used our experience and expertise to evaluate and launch new products and services designed to allow business owners the ability to focus on what’s important – running their business.

Here are a few ways you can do your business banking better in 2017:

  • BusinessFirst Checking – At First County Bank, we’ve kept it simple with an account that has no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance, unlimited check writing, unlimited bill payments, unlimited deposits and more. Stop by any branch or call our business banking team to find out how you can save up to $250 or more each month!1
  • Fraud Prevention & Cash Management Services – These days, how you manage and protect your business finances is a priority for many, including those of us at First County Bank. Positive Pay Services is our newest tool for customers, designed to defend accounts against fraud. With an additional eight Cash Management Services to choose from, we’re sure we have the tools you need to help your business navigate day-to-day cash-flow throughout 2017.
  • Business Lending – As technology advances, the speed in which tasks are expected to be accomplished increases. Recognizing this, we understand that businesses are sometimes in need of funds quickly. In 2016, we created the BusinessFirst Express Loan, where decisions are received in as soon as 48 hours and funds are accessible in as soon as 7 business days.

You’ve set your New Year’s Resolution, now it’s time to accomplish it. Spend more time doing what you do best, and less time paying business banking fees, worrying about your accounts and waiting for loan decisions or funds. Stop by a branch or contact our business banking team to find out how you can do better business banking in 2017.

1Savings estimate based on fees for Positive Pay and Remote Deposit Capture being waived and an estimate of charges you are paying on your existing bank account. Ask us for details. See Business Deposit Account Schedule of Charges and Cash Management/Business Online Banking Agreements for details regarding fees, fund availability, security requirements, and other terms and conditions.

Trends & Tips

New Year’s Resolution: Setting Financial Goals

FCB_umbrellaThe New Year is often a time for reflection upon the past year. We often think of positives and negatives, but one of the most daunting and challenging things to think about is what has not changed. A CNBC Article reported that, “…just 22 percent of American workers [are] highly confident that they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement.” This begs the daunting question, are you on track with your retirement goals? Have you defined your retirement goals or strategy?

Short-term goals and “baby-steps” are the best way to approach a retirement strategy. Use this New Year to not only set a goal for yourself, but layout a plan or strategy on how you can achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. Getting started may seem like an intimidating task, which is why we offer a variety of options to help you prepare and begin moving toward your goals.

  1. 36 Month Bump Rate CD – If you’re new to retirement planning, try starting off with a simple CD account. Learn how to put money into an account and leave it. Letting your money grow in a retirement account can be challenging if you’re not used to long-term savings. The 36 Month Bump Rate CD may be an easier way to get used to this type of savings plan.
  2. Retirement Savings Account – For those ready to take the next or “intermediate” step with retirement planning should speak to a First County Bank Retirement Specialist, and learn about different IRA and Money Market options.
  3. First County Advisors – The “advanced” step in retirement planning, First County Bank Advisors help manage many of life’s milestones and their potential impact on retirement including: marriage or divorce, birth or adoption of a child, care and support of elderly family members, as well as trust and estate planning.
Trends & Tips

Cybersecurity Trending for 2017

SoftwareUpdateAs we approach the New Year a hot topic across all industries is: What will be trending in 2017? For all “Snapchatters” and “Facebookers,” no worries here as it seems that these two social media platforms will continue to expand come 2017. However, one area many do not like to discuss is the area of cybersecurity. In the past few years cybersecurity has gained more attention and increased importance as online activity grows. In 2017, cybersecurity will be a trending topic for discussion.

In a recent Forbes Article, the Society of Information Management (SIM) released their 2017 trend analysis. In this analysis, cybersecurity was ranked as the second most important trend/topic heading into the New Year. According to the article, “36% of IT leaders noted [cyber] security as their top concern. Remarkably, just four years ago, [cyber] security was listed as the ninth area of concern.” How exactly can you increase your cybersecurity efforts? Here are some tips from our Customer Resources Center:

  1. Digital Wallet Security – Mobile technology is changing the way we think of our wallet. We all take necessary precaution when it comes to the safety/security of our physical wallet, but are we doing the same with our digital wallet?
  2. Online Banking Awareness – Online Banking is a convenient way to manage your account. Part of this management requires managing the security of your account. Be sure to use trusted Wi-Fi networks, keep your browser up-to-date, and use strong passwords.
  3. Ransomware – Ransomware is malicious software that can infect a victim’s computer, preventing the victim from using their PC. An easy way to defend against ransomware is by using antivirus software and only downloading software from familiar and trusted sites.

These tips are just a few of many cybersecurity subjects we cover in our Customer Resources Center. To learn more on a specific topic or to view our full list of cybersecurity subjects, click any of the hyperlinks above. Or to read the full Forbes article, click here.