First County Advisors/Wealth Management, Trends & Tips

Newly Enacted Tax Reform Update

Jeff Action 526As the final details of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act emerge from Washington D.C., we would like to share some of the key changes that will affect our customers in the coming year.  Changes regarding deductibility of mortgages, Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs), as well as state and local taxes are found in the new law.  Highlights for individuals include:

  • The deductibility of interest on new mortgages is limited to $750,000 of principal. Existing loans made prior to 12/16/2017 will be grandfathered at the old level of $1,000,000.  The refinancing of grandfathered mortgages will also be allowed under the new law.
  • Interest paid on a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) will no longer be deductible. The pre-reform level was $100,000.
  • The deductibility of state and local taxes, including income and property taxes, will be capped at $10,000 per year for Single and Married Filing Jointly taxpayers. Married Filing Separate taxpayers will be capped at $5,000.

Beyond the changes in deductibility of many items, the new law completely restructures the old income brackets and tax rates.  Generally speaking, the result is that most individuals will see their income taxed at a lower average and marginal rate.  The standard deduction will almost double for all filers.  In exchange for this increase, personal and dependent exemptions that were scheduled to be $4,150 per person for 2018 have been repealed.  Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemptions have also increased substantially.

Another notable change is the increase in the child tax credit from $1,100 to $2,000 ($1,400 is refundable).  The phase-out for eligibility of this credit has been significantly increased from $75,000 (single) and $110,000 (married) to $200,000 (single) and $400,000 (married).

Estate/Gift/Generation-Skipping Transfer tax exemptions have been doubled for individuals, now $11.2M per U.S. domiciliary.   This means a married couple would be able to transfer a combined $22.4M to beneficiaries before any estate tax would be assessed.

What does this mean for Connecticut residents, as well as other high-tax states?

The impact of the tax law change will affect all taxpayers differently.  For filers that previously had itemized deductions well above the standard deduction due to high property taxes, state income taxes and mortgage interest, there is a good chance that their tax bill will increase a bit.  This is due to more income being subject to taxation.  The overall tax rate may be lower but it may not be low enough to offset the lost deductions.  This may also affect households with many dependents, due to the loss of the personal and dependent exemptions, again causing more income to be subject to taxation.  However, for many filers that had utilized the standard deduction, they will likely see a decrease in their overall tax bill.  It is important that all taxpayers consult with their tax advisor in the New Year to adjust withholdings on income in 2018.

 

*This article is intended to be used for education purposes only. Please consult your Tax Professional to see how you will be affected.

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Smart Savings Tips

Fitness Goals for Your Finances

Target-iconIf you’re setting a health and fitness goal for yourself, your first step is to map out how and when you will achieve your goal. You’ll likely plan for small victories, or short-term goals along the way.

This short- and long-term planning is also the key to success in your journey through life. To get where you want to be, you’ll need to establish your course and the milestones or goals you need to achieve along the way.

Of course, the most important step in any journey is figuring out where you want to go. Take some time to ask yourself: What goals would I like to achieve within the next two years? These are your short-term goals. Then, think about the goals you have for later on in life. For example, a long-term goal might be to buy a house or to retire in 20 years.

Once you determine your goals, figure out the steps you need to take to achieve them. So if you want to buy that house, you might set a goal of saving $X per month toward the down payment. Your long-term goal might be to accumulate $X in down payment funds in five years. You should approach your short-term goals in the same way. For example, if your goal is to reduce debt in the next year, establish a specific plan for how you will pay off major loans.

As you think about your goals, do the following:

  • Write them down.
  • Be specific. Include the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals.
  • Review your list regularly to see if you’re on track.
  • Make adjustments. As your life changes, your goals may change, so make sure to review and adjust them.
  • Stay the course.

We can help you reach your financial goals. Feel free to talk to your local banker about strategies to save or reduce debt.

Miscellaneous

Employees Celebrate National Ugly Sweater Day

National Ugly Sweater Day on Friday, December 15th is often one of the most anticipated days in the year for First County Bank employees. This year, employees from across the Bank dusted off their ugly sweaters and wore them proudly to work.

Here are some of our favorites:

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Smart Savings Tips

First County Bank Announces Winners of FirstPrize $avings Account Drawing

We’re pleased to announce the recent winners of the FirstPrize $avings account $1,000 drawing are Anthony and Grace Aversano of Stamford, CT. This innovative account called FirstPrize $avings is a basic savings account with a cash prize drawing component to promote personal savings. With each eligible deposit of $25 or more, the account holder earns an entry into a drawing for a $1,000 prize. The drawing occurs four times per calendar year.

fps-winnerBob Granata, president and COO, and Reyno Giallongo, chairman and CEO of First County Bank, present Grace and Anthony Aversano with their $1,000 as winners of the recent FirstPrize $avings account drawing. To encourage personal savings, the $1,000 prize is directly deposited into the winners’ FirstPrize $avings account. Account details, rules and regulations are posted on the First County Bank savings account website:https://firstcountybank.com/firstprize-savings.

The CEO's Posts

Happy Holidays

RGCEOsanta_hatOn behalf of the entire First County Bank Family, I would like to wish you a happy holiday season and express our appreciation for your continued business and support.

As we enjoy this special time of year, let’s remember to celebrate the many blessings in our lives. The blessings of family and friends, first and foremost.

Whether you plan to travel or stay home for the holidays, I wish you all Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!

May all your days be merry and bright.

First County Bank Profile, In Our Community

Roosevelt Simmons: One of the World’s Ten Nicest People

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Pictured (left to right): Hank Herman & Roosevelt Simmons

In November, Hank Herman of the Westport News wrote an article, The Home Team / The world’s 10 nicest people (Part 2). In the article, Herman lists ten of the world’s nicest people living in Westport, from “Joe the Italian Mailman” to “Sam at Mobil”; and in the mix our very own, “Roosevelt at First County Bank”.

“Roosevelt at First County Bank: Our youngest son Robby thinks Roosevelt, Assistant Branch Manager at our local First County on the Post Road, is the coolest person on the planet. He’s also one of the nicest. You know those commercials where they try to make banking seem fun and friendly? Roosevelt actually does that. Except that I have to figure on a 20-minute visit, so we can dissect and solve the problems of the Jets, Mets, and Knicks.”

We couldn’t agree more – next time you’re in Westport be sure to stop by the branch and meet one of the ten nicest people in the world – you won’t be disappointed.

For the full article, click here or visit: http://www.westport-news.com/news/article/The-Home-Team-The-world-s-10-nicest-people-12329097.php

First County Bank Profile

#FrontlineFridays: Meet Iliana Nikolova

iliana1Meet Iliana Nikolova, Teller Supervisor at the First County Bank Darien Branch located at 1006 Post Road in this edition of #FrontlineFridays.

Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Iliana Nikolova. I was born in Bulgaria, a small European country with old history and rich culture and traditions. I never thought that one day I would end up in a place called, “the land of opportunity”, but here I am!

Since then I’ve been tackling the challenges to adjust, learning and growing to become a successful person. You can find me in the dictionary under positive, funny and outgoing. I’ve been with First County Bank for 4 years, the last two years as a Teller Supervisor at the Darien Branch. I live in Stamford with my husband and two daughters.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?
My favorite part of my role at First County Bank is mostly the interaction with customers, being able to help them with whatever issue they are having, being able to find the answer to their questions, having them leave the branch with a smile and a comment: “Thank you very much. You are the best”.

Also, my new role as Teller Trainer Specialist gives me an opportunity to implement my knowledge and help new hires grow into their career here in First County Bank.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
The most frequent question, “What’s my balance?”.

What is your favorite part of the holidays?
My favorite part of the holidays is Christmas Eve. The celebration of Christmas Eve in Bulgaria is ruled by traditions that are distinctly different from those Americans know. We follow Bulgarian customs closely. We invite an odd number of guests for a vegetarian meal that’s made up of an odd number of dishes.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
My favorite First County Bank moment was when I got promoted to a full time Teller and later on as a Teller Supervisor. I was accepted as part of the First County Bank family and given the opportunity to learn more and grow professionally. Also, I’m grateful to know and work with such wonderful people around me who are helping me every day to achieve my career goals, without whom I would not be where I am today.

Trends & Tips

Cyber Monday: Shop Safely

shutterstock_418009015 [Converted]During your online shopping on Cyber Monday, you will likely land on one of the many online retail giant’s shopping sites.  Here are some tips for shopping safely online.

  1. Type the URL into the address bar. Instead of just clicking a link to take you to your chosen retailer’s website, it’s safer to type the retailer’s URL into the address bar on your web browser. It may take a little more effort, but this simple action can help to prevent you from visiting a fake or malicious website.
  2. Credit Cards. Use the safest way to pay on the Internet – pay for your order using a credit card.  The safest way to purchase items via the Internet is by credit card because you can often dispute the charges if something is wrong.
  3. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable buying or bidding on an item over the web, or if you feel pressured to place your order immediately, maybe you shouldn’t.
  4. Make sure the Internet connection is secure. Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure.  Before you give your payment information, check for indicators that security software is in place.
  5. Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).

For more tips on how to shop safely, click here.

In Our Community

Support Local Businesses – Small Business Saturday is Tomorrow!

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In 2010 American Express launched the first Small Business Saturday, encouraging shoppers nationwide to support local business. Since then, billions of dollars are spent on this Saturday at small and local businesses by tens of millions of people.

We are now encouraging you to do the same! Don’t do all your shopping at big retailers today or online on Monday, plan to spend some time shopping tomorrow and support our local businesses.

In Our Community

First County Bank & Palmer’s Market Donate Turkeys to The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County

Pictured (Left to Right): Steve Ferguson, AVP, Business Development Officer, First County Bank, Aitza Cabrera, AVP, Branch Manager, Mortgage Loan Originator, First County Bank, Greg Palmer, Owner, Palmer’s Market,  Amzad Latiff, Director of Operations, Palmer’s Market, Tashi Tsering, Meat & Seafood Manager, Palmer’s Market, Richard Evanko, VP, Business Banking Manager, First County Bank.

Pictured (Left to Right): Steve Ferguson, AVP, Business Development Officer, First County Bank, Aitza Cabrera, AVP, Branch Manager, Mortgage Loan Originator, First County Bank, Greg Palmer, Owner, Palmer’s Market, Amzad Latiff, Director of Operations, Palmer’s Market, Tashi Tsering, Meat & Seafood Manager, Palmer’s Market, Richard Evanko, VP, Business Banking Manager, First County Bank.

First County Bank teamed up with Palmer’s Market to donate 100 turkeys, a $1,500 donation, to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County. Weighing in at over 1,200 pounds, these turkeys will be provided to local nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry in Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Wilton.

First County Bank is collecting food donations for The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County at all Branches through the end of the year. For branch locations, go to: https://firstcountybank.com/branch-hours-locations-and-directions. Every donation is greatly appreciated.