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.

Trends & Tips

Cyber Monday Security Tips

SoftwareUpdateThere are many things to look forward to when it comes to Thanksgiving Weekend: time spent with family and friends, great food, and great deals. Thanksgiving Weekend marks the start of the official holiday shopping season, kicked off with Black Friday and followed by Cyber Monday. While Cyber Monday boasts the ability of finding great deals from the comfort of your own home, there are some security tips and tricks you should be aware of before shopping for that great deal.

In a CBS News article, Brian Krebs, Cybersecurity Expert and author of “Spam Nation,” Marc Boroditsky, President of the cybersecurity start-up “Authy,” and Steve Bellovin, Computer Science Professor and Cybersecurity Expert at Columbia University, collaborated to provide CBS with “5 Cyber Monday tips for hacker proof shopping.”

  1. Get email savvy – Be aware of the emails coming in and going out of your inbox. Be sure to verify that the email is coming from a trusted source before clicking or applying for any item.
  2. Use a credit card rather than a debit card – Fraudulent charges are no fun whether it’s a charge to your credit card or debit card. Know that complications may be more severe for a debit card because it is usually linked directly to your checking account.
  3. Practice “good password hygiene” – Be mindful to create new passwords rather than simply reusing passwords. “Password reuse is a much worse danger than weak passwords,” stated Bellovin.
  4. Beware of phantom sites – If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! Comparison-shopping is great for finding the best deals, but stick to sites you are familiar with.
  5. Keep your browser up to date – Not only is keeping your browser up to date effective for shopping purposes, but the older your browser becomes the weaker it is when defending against viruses and malware.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Weekend! Good luck to all of those bracing for Black Friday sales, and for those utilizing Cyber Monday – remember these tips!

Trends & Tips

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

FCB_SafePassPresident Barack Obama once again signed a proclamation declaring October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Cyber Security requires little effort but makes a big difference. Cyber Security is a national and local, governmental and personal effort. At First County Bank we take your Cyber Security seriously. Here are some tips to consider this month:

  • On social media, know what you post about yourself – posting personal information about yourself is a common way for hackers to gain access to your account
  • Always log out – always log out of online banking or mobile banking accounts. Staying logged in is leaving the front door to your account open
  • Be aware of network security – using a work or school Wi-Fi does not make it a safe Wi-Fi, the same threat of hackers and viruses still apply.

For more information and tips on Cyber Security or general fraud prevention visit: http://firstcountybank.com/customer-resources

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Trends & Tips

Keeping Software Current

SoftwareUpdateLet’s face it; some things in life just need some updating from our cellphones to our home décor to our hairstyles. There’s another thing in your life to update that’s even more critical – your computer software. However, despite the fact that our computers often remind us to do so, many of us don’t take the time to download updates.

With the number of software programs computers run today and the growth and sophistication in computer hacking, failure to update your software programs could affect the performance of your computer and even more worrisome, put your identity at serious risk.

Here are some important tips to remember about updating software:

  • Stay current. You should install software upgrades for your operating system, browsers, antivirus software, flash players, PDF readers, as well as software products such as Microsoft Office®. Keeping your software current will ensure maximum performance and protection.
  • Be vigilant. Do not download updates from sites and emails that are not from the software developer. In general, software developers do not share their updates with third-party sites. If you aren’t sure if a particular update is legitimate, go directly to the developer’s site.
  • Watch for pop-ups. Many times, your developer will notify you that you need to update software via a pop-up message. If you receive a pop-up, just verify that it is from the developer.
  • Be careful of email software updates. As a rule, developers do not send you software updates by email, so if you receive an email telling you to download an update, do not click on the link. Often times, the links will download malware on your computer.
  • Do manual checks. If you don’t receive automatic updates from developers, you can periodically check for software updates on your own by checking the version of the software you are running.

Take the time to check your software today! You’ll be glad you did.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Trends & Tips

The Best Policy for Ensuring You Are Protected

umbrellapolicyToday is not just the last Tuesday of the month; it’s also National Insurance Awareness Day, an important day to ensure you have the insurance coverages you need to protect the life you’ve worked so hard to build. Here are some important questions to consider when evaluating your insurance:

  • Do you know when your policy is up for renewal? When your homeowner’s policy is up for renewal, you have a golden opportunity to review and change your coverages and maybe even save some money.
  • Have you made any additional purchases? For example, did you purchase an expensive piece of jewelry, such as a diamond ring or gold watch that may need additional coverage?
  • Have you made major home improvements? For example, did you put on a new addition or build an outdoor gazebo? If so, you will need additional coverage.
  • Could you save more? One of the best ways to determine that is to shop around and compare coverages and costs.
  • Would you consider raising your deductible to lower your premiums?
  • Have you experienced a major life change, such as the birth of a child, marriage, or divorce? If so, you may want to change or increase your life insurance coverage.
  • Are you taking advantage of multi-policy discounts? For example, many insurance companies offer discounted rates if you have both an auto and homeowner’s insurance policy.
  • Do you have enough coverage on your auto insurance? Take a look at your liability coverage to make sure it’s enough to protect you in the event that you cause an accident.
  • Have you made any safety improvements to your home? For example, if you’ve installed a new burglar alarm, heating, or electrical system, you may qualify for a safety discount.
  • Have you started a home-based business? If so, you’ll need additional coverage to protect you.

Celebrate Insurance Awareness Day; take some time to review your coverages today!

Trends & Tips

Mortgage Monday: Improving Your Credit Score Can Lead to Your Dream House

ImprovingCreditAn important step to finding a home, whether you’re renting or buying, is ensuring that you have a good credit history. Here are a few ways to improve your credit score:

  1. Request a copy of your credit score report – and make sure it is correct. Your credit report illustrates your credit performance, and it needs to be accurate so that you can apply for other loans – such as a mortgage. Everyone is entitled to receive a free copy of his or her credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies, but you must go through the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. Note that you may have to pay for the numerical credit score itself. 
  1. Set up automatic bill pay. Payment history makes up 32 percent of your VantageScore credit score and 35 percent of your FICO credit score. The longer you pay your bills on time, the better your score. Avoid missed payments by setting as many of your bills to automatic pay as possible. 
  1. Build credit through renting. VantageScore’s scoring model, created by the three major credit bureaus, will now weigh rent and utility payment records. This will allow it to score as many as 35 million people who previously couldn’t get a credit score. 
  1. Keep balances low on credit cards and ‘revolving credit.’ Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. You often can increase your scores by limiting your charges to 30 percent or less of a card’s limit. 
  1. Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Keep this in mind the next time a retailer offers you 10 percent off if you open an account. However, if you need a new line of credit, don’t jump at the first appealing offer; compare rates and fees offered through mail solicitation, on the Internet or at your local bank. 
  1. Don’t close old, paid off accounts. According to FICO, closing accounts can never help your score and can in fact damage it.
  1. Talk to credit counselors if you’re in trouble. Using legitimate, non-profit credit counseling can help you manage your debt and won’t hurt your credit score. For more information on debt management, contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (nfcc.org).

June is American Housing Month. Throughout the month First County Bank and the American Bankers Association will be providing valuable resources to help educate our customers and neighbors on topics related to housing.

Trends & Tips

Mortgage Monday: 5 Important Questions When Choosing Your First Home

choosingHomeMoving into your first home can be exciting and nerve-racking. Minimize stress with these 5 questions you should ask yourself when choosing your first home:

  1. How much money do you have saved up?
    Start with an evaluation of your financial health. Figure out how much money you have for a down payment or deposit on a rental. Down payments are typically 5 to 20 percent of the price of the home. Security deposits on rentals are usually about one month of rent and more if you have a pet. But be sure to keep enough in savings for an emergency fund. It’s a good idea to have three to six months of living expenses to cover unexpected costs.
  1. How much debt do you have?
    Consider all of your current and expected financial obligations like your car payment and insurance, credit card debt and student loans. Make sure you will be able to make all the payments in addition to the cost of your new home. Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25 to 30 percent of your gross monthly income. Recent regulatory changes limit debt to income (DTI) ratio on most loans to 43 percent. 
  1. What is your credit score?
    A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness. Both renters and homebuyers can expect to have their credit history examined. A low credit score can keep you from qualifying for the rental you want or a low interest rate on your mortgage loan. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay moving into a new home and take steps to raise your score. For tips on improving your credit score, visit aba.com/consumers.
  1. Have you factored in all the costs? Create a hypothetical budget for your new home.
    Find the average cost of utilities in your area, factor in gas, electricity, water and cable. Find out if you will have to pay for parking or trash pickup. Consider the cost of yard maintenance and other basic maintenance costs like replacing the air filter every three months. If you are planning to buy a home, factor in real estate taxes, mortgage insurance and possibly a home owner association fee. Renters should consider the cost of rental insurance.
  1. How long will you stay?
    Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. Over time, you can build equity in your home. On the other hand, renters have greater flexibility to move and fewer maintenance costs. Carefully consider your current life and work situation and think about how long you want to stay in your new home.

June is American Housing Month. Throughout the month First County Bank and the American Bankers Association will be providing valuable resources to help educate our customers and neighbors on topics related to housing.