Posted on 12/6/2017 12:14 PM By First Bank
A new year is right around the corner, bringing with it a fresh start for you and your finances. What will you do this year to help improve your financial situation?
Evaluate your savings goals. The beginning of the year is a great time to examine your overall financial plan. Maybe you want to buy a new vehicle this year or save money toward a Caribbean cruise next year. Perhaps you want to focus less on material items and more on long-term goals, such as your retirement savings. Regardless of what you are setting money aside for, make sure you come up with a realistic savings plan that will help you achieve your goals and avoid the risk of significant loss.
Pay down debt. Whether you owe money on your credit cards or have student loan payments to make, the start of a new year is a ood time to develop a strategy to reduce your overall level of debt. Reducing your debt can help create opportunities to contribute toward other goals throughout the year.
But unless you can definitely afford it, don ...
Posted on 12/6/2017 11:55 AM By First Bank
If your financial plan for 2017 didn't work out the way you wanted it to, don't beat yourself up. Instead, ask yourself the following questions to determine what you can learn from reflecting on your financial situation in the last year.
Did you meet your financial goals and expectations for 2017?
Perhaps you started the year with some financial goals in mind. You wanted to establish a budget that you could stick to, or maybe you hoped to build up your emergency savings fund throughout the year. If you fell short of accomplishing these or other goals, think about the reasons why. Were your goals specific? Did you develop a realistic timeframe for when they would be achieved? If not, learn to set attainable and measurable goals for your finances in the new year.
How did your investments perform?
A year-end review of your overall portfolio can help you determine whether your asset allocation is balanced and in line with your time horizon and goals. If one type of investment performed well du ...
Posted on 12/6/2017 10:47 AM By First Bank
Even if you're generally comfortable with your finances, you may occasionally worry about how much you're spending, especially if you consistently have trouble saving for short or long-term goals. Here are a few questions to ask that might help you decide whether a purchase is really worth it.
Why do I want it?
Maybe you've worked hard and think you deserve to buy something you've always wanted. That may be true, but are you certain you're not being unduly influenced by other factors such as stress or boredom? Take a moment to think about what's important to you. Comfort? Security? Safety? Status? Quality? Thriftiness? Does your purchase align with your values, or are you unconsciously allowing other people (advertisers, friends, family, neighbors, for example) to influence your spending?
How will buying this now affect me later?
When you're deciding whether to buy something, you usually focus on the features and benefits of what you're getting, but what are you pot ...
Posted on 12/6/2017 9:45 AM By First Bank
The Markets (as of market close November 30, 2017)
The Dow soared over 300 points on the last day of November to close above 24000 for the first time in its history. Hopes for a tax overhaul may have contributed to investor confidence in equities. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted favorable monthly gains. The Nasdaq continued its strong performance in 2017, gaining over 2.0% in November, while the small caps of the Russell 2000 climbed close to 3.0%. After gaining 2.8% for November, the S&P 500 joined the Dow in posting its eighth consecutive month of positive returns. With stocks climbing, it's not surprising that long-term bond prices fell, as evidenced by the yield on 10-year Treasuries, which jumped 4 basis points over October's end-of-month yield.
By the close of trading on November 30, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $57.39 per barrel, up from the October 31 price of $54.54 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.533 per gallon on November ...
Posted on 11/9/2017 12:15 PM By First Bank
Trimming college costs up front can help families avoid excessive college borrowing and the burdensome student loan payments that come with it. Here are some ideas.
1. Pick a college with a lower net price. You can use a college's net price calculator (available on every college's website) to estimate what your net price (out-of-pocket cost) will be at individual colleges. A net price calculator does this by estimating how much grant aid a student is likely to receive based on a family's financial and personal information. Colleges differ on their aid generosity, so after entering identical information in different calculators, you may find that College A's net price is $35,000 per year while College B's net price is $22,000. By establishing an ideal net price range, your child can target schools that hit your affordable zone.
2. Investigate in-state universities. Research in-state options and encourage your child to apply to at least one in-state school. In-state schools generally o ...
Posted on 11/9/2017 12:13 PM By First Bank
There is no magic formula to determine how much you or your child should borrow to pay for college. But there is such a thing as borrowing too much. How much is too much? Well, one guideline for students is to borrow no more than their expected first-year starting salary after college, which, in turn, depends on a student's particular major and job prospects.
But this guideline is simply that — a guideline. Just as many homeowners got burned by taking out larger mortgages than they could afford (even though lenders may have told them they were qualified for that amount), students can get burned by borrowing amounts that may have seemed reasonable at first glance but now, in reality, are not.
Keep in mind that student loans will need to be paid back over a term of 10 years or longer. A lot can happen during that time. What if a student's assumptions about future earnings don't pan out? Will student loans still be manageable when other expenses like rent, utilities, and/or car payments c ...
Posted on 11/9/2017 12:12 PM By First Bank
You may think that the chances of becoming disabled during your working years are slight, and even if you did get hurt or had to miss time at work, you could get by because you have group disability insurance. Unfortunately, you may be in for a big surprise. Here are some myths and misunderstandings about group disability insurance.
Myth 1: It won't happen to me.
You're not really worried about your group disability insurance coverage because you're sure you won't suffer a disability. In fact, your chances of being disabled for longer than three months are much greater than you may realize. Even the healthiest and ablest can become disabled. According to the Social Security Administration, one in five Americans lives with a disability, and more than one in four 20-year-olds becomes disabled before reaching retirement age.¹ So maybe you could miss work for an extended period of time due to a disability. But you have group disability insurance to cover all your income, right?
Posted on 11/9/2017 12:10 PM By First Bank
Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year.
1. Set aside time to plan
Effective planning requires that you have a good understanding of your current tax situation, as well as a reasonable estimate of how your circumstances might change next year. There's a real opportunity for tax savings if you'll be paying taxes at a lower rate in one year than in the other. However, the window for most tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so don't procrastinate.
2. Defer income to next year
Consider opportunities to defer income to 2018, particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year.
3. Accelerate deductions
You might also look for opportunities to accelerate deductions into the current tax year. If you it ...
Posted on 11/8/2017 4:13 PM By First Bank
Market Month: October 2017
The Markets (as of market close October 31, 2017)
Despite continuing drama in the White House and the fury of Mother Nature, stock growth remained steady for much of October. Favorable corporate earnings reports, a strong jobs sector, and growing consumer income overcame any trepidations investors may have had. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted monthly gains, led by the large caps of the Dow, which gained over 4% for the month and is up over 18% year-to-date. The tech-heavy Nasdaq has remained steady throughout the year, reaching new highs in October. The small caps of the Russell 2000 gained less than 1.0% for the month, but is up over 10.0% since the end of 2016.
By the close of trading on October 31, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $54.54 per barrel, up from the September 29 price of $47.07 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.488 per gallon on October 30, down from the September 25 selling price of $2.583 and $0.258 more ...
Posted on 11/8/2017 2:43 PM By First Bank
What You Can Do with a Will
A will is often the cornerstone of an estate plan. Here are five things you can do with a will.
Distribute property as you wish
Wills enable you to leave your property at your death to a surviving spouse, a child, other relatives, friends, a trust, a charity, or anyone you choose. There are some limits, however, on how you can distribute property using a will. For instance, your spouse may have certain rights with respect to your property, regardless of the provisions of your will. Transfers through your will take the form of specific bequests (e.g., an heirloom, jewelry, furniture, or cash), general bequests (e.g., a percentage of your property), or a residuary bequest of what's left after your other transfers. It is generally a good practice to name backup beneficiaries just in case they are needed. Note that certain property is not transferred by a will. For example, property you hold in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety passes to the surviving joint owner(s) ...