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

In Our Community

Save the Date: Maple Sugar Festival Weekend Upcoming

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 10.47.18 AMCelebrate the sweetness of maple sugaring season as this annual family favorite returns to the Stamford Museum & Nature Center Saturday, March 4th and Sunday, March 5th. The Maple Sugar Festival weekend is a fun filled family weekend which includes maple sugar and tree tapping demonstrations, sweet maple treats, face painting, a scavenger hunt and much more!

The first of two main events taking place over the weekend is our 4th Annual First County Bank Teen Chef Challenge. This event takes place Saturday, March 4th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The other main event is the Sunday, Pancake Brunch taking place March 5th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We invite you all to join the fun and come out to the little red sugarhouse on Heckscher Farm.

For more event information visit the Maple Sugar Festival Weekend website. For admission information or to purchase tickets to the Sunday Brunch visit the Stamford Museum Maple Sugar Sunday website.

First County Bank Profile

First County Profile: Mark Rosenbloom

Mark RosenbloomMeet Mark Rosenbloom, Vice President & Manager, Cash Management Services.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up locally in Darien, CT. When it was time for college, I enrolled at Ithaca College and studied Business Finance. After a short time in upstate New York, I returned to Connecticut and lived in a little town in the Northwest corner, Falls Village, where I raised my three children.

I currently live in Stamford and enjoy cooking and sailing with my children. I have held onto my home in Falls Village as an escape to enjoy the outdoors. The charming brick home and beautiful area have always made for a nice weekend escape. The home is actually for sale – want to make an offer?

Locally I am involved with nonprofit organizations such as the Community Fund of Darien where I sit on the allocation panel, and Darien Chamber of Commerce, where I am an active Board member.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
I enjoy working in Cash Management because of the wide array of business customers I work with on a daily basis. I enjoy creating custom solutions for local business owners. Equally as enjoyable is being able to work with different departments across the Bank; I really like everyone I work with.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
“Could you unlock me?” Customers often forget their passwords.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?
I’ve had so many great moments, it’s hard to pick just one. Closing a big sale, hearing my staff complimented by customers, and teaching the Cash Management Certification course are at the top of my list.

Contact
Phone: 203.462.4356
Email: mrosenbloom@firstcountybank.com
Webpage l LinkedIn

Promotional Initiatives

BusinessFirst Express off to a fast start

Commercial Lender ImageAs a community bank, our main focus is you the customer. One of the best ways we show this is through fun, new products like the FirstPrize $avings account or products that simply make banking easier. A newer product that is helping our business customers is the BusinessFirst Express Loan. The BusinessFirst Express Loan began as a concept developed by First County Bank employees – we wanted to create a way to help businesses who had a need for quick access to funds. This loan provides streamlined financing options up to $100,000, boasts decisions in as soon as 48 business hours with access to funds in as soon as 7 business days2. One of the most difficult parts of creating this product was making sure that we did not disappoint – so far our customers have been anything but disappointed.

Early success happened when a business customer came to us after his primary bank had rejected his loan application. The customer had recently opened a second location for his business and was in need of funds for cash flow. We were able to turnaround a loan in just 10 days! The customer was not only pleased with our turnaround time but with our convenient, online application process as well. Providing a quick turnaround time and easy application process is just one of many ways we design products to specifically meet customer needs and make banking easier.

Many of these product ideas come from your responses to our survey. We encourage all of you who have not yet taken our survey to do so, by clicking the link below. Your feedback may be inspiration for our next new product.

Click here to take the survey or go to survey.myfirstcountybank.com

1Source: Commercial Record/Warren Group, Mortgage MarketShare Module Report, March 2015. Rankings are listed by number of loans. Ranked 5th for number of purchase loans.
2Applicants subject to credit approval

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.

 

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Financial Outlook for 2017

financial_tracking_iconWell it’s here – 2017 is in full-swing, with a fresh financial start, defined resolutions, and a new administration in D.C. There are many questions circling what the financial industry will look like come fourth quarter. WalletHub, a consumer finance website, has released their financial predictions as we begin to wade through 2017.

  1. U.S. GDP growth will remain anemic, at 2.1% – Closing 2016 at approximately 1.75% WalletHub is predicting low growth, but growth is still a positive.
  2. Existing home sales will rise to $6M, despite higher rates – WalletHub forecasts nearly $6M in home sales for 2017, and surprisingly they attribute this to higher interest rates. “If interest rates rise slowly, we may see a nice bump in home sales and mortgage availability as buyers see low interest rates slowly fading and banks have higher rates to buffer against risk,” said Dr. Robert Eyler, director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.
  3. The Fed will raise rates twice, bringing its target to 1.125% – With only one rate hike in 2016, it is expected that we will see two in 2017. What does this mean for consumers? According to WalletHub, “each rate hike costs people with credit card debt around $1.4 billion in additional interest charges. As a result, consumers interest charges will be at least $2.8 billion higher in 2017 relative to 2016.” Not that you ever want to build debt, this is one more reason to be careful as you spend.
  4. Credit card debt will break all-time records, topping $1 trillion owed – As the dust settles it seems that 2016 will end up totaling around $80 billion in credit card debt. Ending 2016 at $80 billion seems to only be a starting point as early estimates project 2017 leaving the $1 trillion mark in the dust. This prediction coupled with the predicted rate hike is even more reason to be strict in your spending and to have a defined financial plan for the year.
  5. Consumer credit scores will peak at 675 in 2017 – The current average person’s credit score of 668 is expected to peak and plateau in 2017 around 675. Use this expected average increase as an opportunity to evaluate your score and efforts.

For more predictions on what to expect in 2017 read the full article, here. To learn how these predictions can affect you, talk with your local banker by calling or stopping by one of our branches.

First County Bank Foundation

First County Bank Foundation supports Stamford Hospital Foundation with a Multi-year Grant.

First County Bank Foundation announces a multi-year grant to the Stamford Hospital Foundation, totaling $25,000. In recognition of this grant, the Hospital named the Emergency Department Nourishment Center in First County Bank Foundation’s honor.

FCBF and StmfdHF (1)

In front of Stamford Hospital’s “Cornerstone Society”, First County Bank Foundation presents its grant to the Stamford Hospital Foundation with Christopher J. Riendeau, senior vice president, Fund Development of Stamford Hospital Foundation, Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr., president, First County Bank Foundation and chairman and CEO of First County Bank, Karen Kelly, vice president, First County Bank Foundation and senior vice president, CMO of First County Bank, and Stephanie A. McLaughlin, Esq., director, Stamford Hospital Foundation.

“It is a privilege to support Stamford Hospital and provide patients and visitors to Stamford Hospital’s Emergency Department with sustenance during their stay,” said Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr., president of First County Bank Foundation and chairman, CEO of First County Bank. “The Stamford Hospital Foundation and its donors were critical to financing the new Stamford Hospital which is an amazing community resource. It is an honor to have its Emergency Department Nourishment Center named after the Foundation.”

First County Bank Profile

First County Profile: Jeff Costa

022B2376-1aMeet Jeff Costa, Assistant Vice President, Trust Officer, at First County Advisors, the Wealth Management Division of First County Bank.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a lifelong Connecticut resident who grew up in Shelton and now lives in Norwalk. My wife and I moved to East Norwalk about 5 years ago because we both love being close to the beach. Throughout my life I have always been involved in the local community and have a love for the outdoors. When I was in high school at Fairfield Prep, I competed as a swimmer during the school year and worked as a lifeguard at Fairfield Beach during the summers. Today, I am very active in my neighborhood association and still stay close to the water. In the summer you can find me out in Norwalk Harbor on my stand up paddle board, and in the winter, snowboarding up in Vermont where I also used to instruct beginners on the weekends.

What is the favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
As a member of First County Advisors, I love being able to meet interesting clients that have unique stories to tell. Over the years, I have met people I likely never would have come into contact with otherwise and I have learned a lot from meeting them.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
Where to invest? People are overwhelmed at times with the vast amount of recommendations, often conflicting, when it comes to investing.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?
I would have to say that my first day at the Bank was my favorite moment so far. It is always difficult starting something new at a new place, whether it’s moving your home, school or job. I immediately felt welcome when I started here and it reaffirmed my decision to come work for First County Bank. The Bank has a great culture and was apparent right from the start.

Contact
Phone: 203.462.4228
Email: jcosta@firstcountybank.com
Webpage l LinkedIn