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 You can set it so that money is withdrawn from your checking account on the same day each month.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.

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.