Smart Savings Tips, The CEO's Posts

On Building an Emergency Fund – How Much for That New Transmission?!

RGCEO1According to conventional wisdom, everyone will at some time have a need for emergency funds. Unfortunately, many people still live their lives “paycheck to paycheck.” As a result, setting aside money for unexpected expenses can be a real strain on one’s household.

Before we tackle the issue of how to save for a rainy day, let’s figure out how much to save “just in case.” Most companies and nonprofits I work with say having six months worth of expenses set aside should carry their organization through a financial emergency. I think the same holds true for most families. A good starting point is to set aside at least six months of living expenses – household expenses, food and clothing allowances, health care costs and, of course, transportation expenses, to name a few.

Sure, this is easier said than done so here is some help on how to start. First, set a goal and talk with one of our financial experts at First County Bank about enrolling in an automatic savings program, which can be set up to deposit a portion of your paycheck to a savings account. Our trusted advisors will help you navigate your options to find the best savings plan to suit your individual lifestyle. The key is having immediate liquidity so be sure you don’t tie your emergency fund up in a CD, which generally makes funds harder to access at a minute’s notice. Investment products are also not the best vehicle for an emergency fund because of their inherent risk so you may want to steer clear of those.

Another tip is, resist the temptation to spend your tax refund and add it to this emergency account instead. Additionally, reviewing your expenses carefully may provide you with an opportunity to plan your budget and watch unnecessary expenses until you have achieved your financial goal. There are many easy-to-use online tools to help you save; a simple Google search is a good starting point for that.

Finally, resist the temptation to break open this “piggy bank” for a vacation or any expense that doesn’t meet the definition of an emergency. You’ll find that the alternatives to not having an emergency fund—like borrowing from a friend or family member—  aren’t ideal. Just watch any episode of Judge Judy to see how badly that can end.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Smart Savings Tips

America Saves Week

MoneyBag iconAmerica Saves Week was established in 2007 by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council in an effort to promote personal savings throughout America and to change people’s behavior when it comes to saving money. AmericaSavesWeek.org uncovered some startling statistics from the 2016 Annual America Saves Week survey:

  • Just two out of every five U.S. households report good or excellent progress in meeting their savings goals
  • 52 percent are saving enough for retirement at a desirable standard of living
  • Only 43 percent have automatic savings outside of work
  • More men (74 percent) report savings progress than women (67 percent)
  • Those with a savings plan with specific goals (55 percent) are making more savings progress than those without a plan (23 percent)

At First County Bank we have many initiatives and programs to help promote savings. From our most basic savings account to comprehensive retirement strategies, we have the people in place to help you achieve the results you want when it comes to savings.

First County Bank Foundation

A+ for the FirstClass Teacher Grant

Ms. LaMonica K - Rey Use for PRIn 2016, our First County Bank Foundation celebrated its 15th Anniversary which has become the cornerstone for everything done here at the Bank. Since 2001, the Foundation has awarded over 1,000 individual grants, worth over $7.5 million.

The First County Bank Foundation commemorated its 15 years by introducing the FirstClass Grant for Teachers. This grant was designed to help support and foster creative educational programs in the classroom. In its first application period we received a variety of great applications from local public elementary school teachers and were able to award nineteen total FirstClass Grants. See below for the full list of recipients.

 

Below are the 2016-17 school year recipients of the FirstClass Teacher Grants:

  • Andrew Pearce from Columbus Magnet School, to support the Young Astronauts in Space Program – $1,000.00
  • Catherine Byrne from Hamilton Ave School, to support Constructive Recess – $1,000.00
  • Beverly Boyd from Hart Magnet Elementary School, to support Fun with Phonics – $953.54
  • Audra LaMonica from Hart Magnet Elementary School, to support Geology Rocks – $550.00
  • Tammy Childs from Hart Magnet Elementary School, to support Coding for the Future $960.00
  • Linda Kuehn from Hart Magnet Elementary School, to support Forces of Habit – $1,000.00
  • Susan Christiano from Hart Magnet Elementary School, to support Zooming in on My Environment – $986.98
  • Monica Strobel from Julia A. Stark Elementary School, to support Building Vocabulary Understanding – $856.99
  • Gregory Herrmann from Julia A. Stark Elementary School, to support LEGO Rhythms – $318.78
  • Melissa Smith from Julia A. Stark Elementary School, to support Determined to Breakout! – $834.00
  • Liz Hirtenstein from Julia A. Stark Elementary School, to support If They Can Think It, They Can Build It – $960.00
  • Judy Kinzler from Julia A. Stark Elementary School, to support Materials for Fine Motor Development – $206.00
  • Joan Skloot from Marvin Elementary School, to support Integrated Rainstick Study – $660.00
  • Lucila Telesco from Newfield Elementary School, to support LEGO StoryStarter Program -$1,000.00
  • Lissette Guerra-Rhazali from Newfield Elementary School, to support Multiplication Masters – $403.92
  • Sharlene Turner from Rogers International School, to support Magnet Magic – $1,000.00
  • Keely Norton from Scofield Magnet Middle School, to support Explorations Maker Space -$1,000.00
  • Erin Gray from Springdale School, to support Breakout EDU – $250.00
  • Tracy O’Neill from Westover Magnet School, to support Scholastic News Magazine – $756.66

 

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

Bank News

Happy to Welcome Our New Board Member

First County Bank is pleased to welcome John C. Polera as our newest member of the Board of Directors.

First County Bank is pleased to welcome John C. Polera as our newest member of the Board of Directors.

We are pleased to announce that John C. Polera has been named to our Board of Directors. John was officially appointed to the board at the January 25th Board of Directors & Corporators meeting. “John brings substantial legal knowledge and expertise to our board. His business and leadership experience in the tax and legal profession makes him an outstanding addition to our board of directors,” said Rey Giallongo, First County Bank Chairman and CEO.

John is an attorney and president at the law Office of John C. Polera, P.C. which has offices in Stamford, CT and Garden City, NY. His areas of practice include: commercial and residential real estate, real estate development, condominium formation, commercial and residential finance work, trust and estate planning and administration, tax planning and compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and business planning.  He has been practicing as a tax and legal professional since 1986. In addition to being admitted to practice law in Connecticut and New York, John is a licensed CPA in Connecticut and has a Master of Laws Degree (LLM) in Taxation.

John has been a corporator at First County Bank since June 2015.  He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Connecticut Bar Association and the Fairfield County Bar Association. He has been practicing as a tax and legal professional since 1986. John graduated from Tulane University, University of Miami School of Law and Boston University School of Law. He currently resides in Armonk, NY, with his wife and daughters.

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.