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  • If I Knew Then What I Know Now

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    I hope I have become wiser as I have aged.  For I have surely aged!  I work in Human Resources & Training at the bank, and we had a great manager’s round table discussion the other day, and I had possibly the best question that has ever come up in one of our sessions.  A young, very new manager asked: “If you knew then, what you know now (about managing people), what would you do differently?”

    And every manager in the room had an answer.  This was a great reflective question.  We had engaging and wise comments shared, and so, I am going to turn this question inward, twist it a little, and share: “If I knew then, what I know now, about preparing for my financial future, what would I do differently?”

    Yes, I was a not-so-smart-but -thought-I-was-da-bomb-college-graduate-newlywed-burgeoning-career person, way back when, and as I am now aiming for some financial goals so I can live comfortably in a few years, here’s how I answered my own question:

    If I knew then, what I know now, I would do these things differently, to plan for a more secure financial future:

    • Spending a retirement payout instead of rolling it over.  When I changed jobs, I’d have NOT spent my retirement plan money on a one-time vacation to Florida.  I’d have rolled it over to an IRA, or something….  I took a tax hit then, and have 4 years less retirement savings.  Geesh…
    • Accepting or applying for multiple credit cards.  I would not have kept taking credit cards from stores, and big banks, and using them.  It took me a long time to dig out, and using the credit cards became a very bad habit;
    • Not officially closing those open credit cards after paying them off.  I would have closed those credit cards and notified the stores/banks, not just cut them up as I paid them off.  Those all show up  (or they did) on my credit report, and could have adversely affected my credit score;
    • Immediately rolling dividends back into stock.  I got a tiny bit of a stock inheritance from a great uncle.  I spent those first dividend checks.  If I could go back, I would have rolled those over back into the stock starting the moment I got it. 
    • Taking the time to learn, really learn, about my company benefits.  What all did I leave on the table? 
      • A company match in a 401(k) – that’s FREE money I might have walked away from;
      • Understanding and utilizing Flexible Spending Accounts to reduce my taxable income – especially when I was paying for child care;
      • Staying with a company until I was fully vested in a pension or other retirement plan – I left 6 months shy – twice in my career.  Darn it!
      • Understanding my health plan and what was covered and not covered.  Did I miss some benefits?

    Hindsight is 20/20.  So, hopefully I’ve learned.  If nothing else, maybe my ‘shoulda coulda wouldhave’s’ will help someone else make better decisions.

  • Practice Safe Holiday Shopping

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    The holiday shopping season is in full swing!  Are you ready?  Do you still have lots of shopping to do?  Have you already shopped on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, or all three?  Chances are that many of us still have plenty of shopping left to do before Christmas and that will be inter-mingled with work and family gatherings as well as travel both short and long trips.

    In the middle of all of this activity, it’s very important to keep track of your holiday spending habits especially when shopping online and travelling over the holidays.  Doing so will help protect your money and reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions occurring.

    Following these guidelines can make your holiday shopping and travel more financially secure:

    • Use a low limit credit card for online shopping.  Your liability is $50 on fraudulent charges using your credit card.
    • Know who you’re shopping with.  Be leery of unknown or obscure shopping websites.  Stick with well-known shopping sites from reputable retailers.
    • If it’s too good to be true…it probably is.  Don’t fall for incredibly cheap or free deals commonly seen on Facebook.
    • Look for the padlock and https on your Internet browser window.  Secure online shopping sites should use the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technology for securing online transactions.  You should see a padlock icon at the bottom or top of the browser status bars that you are using and https in the address bar.
    • Make sure that computers and smart phones used for online shopping are patched with the most up to date software.
    • Try not to conduct online shopping on public WiFi networks.
    • Use anti-virus / anti-malware software on your PC and smart phones and make sure they are updated.  This can help prevent a virus infection if you happen to end up on a bogus shopping site.
    • Make sure you use online banking to check your shopping activity and don’t wait for a mailed statement to arrive to verify online shopping activity. By the way, have you signed up for MutualBank’s online banking?  Learn how to get started.
    • Use your statements, MutualMobile or MutualBank’s Personal Online Banking to review transactions…are you signed up for eStatements yet?  Get your statements quicker via email!
    • View your cleared checks to make sure they were not altered in any way to change the payees or dollar amounts.
    • If you swipe your card, check the card reader especially on gas pumps, ATMs, and other self-service payment terminals for card skimming devices…see ABC News “Credit Card Skimming Tips To Protect Yourself” for more information.  It is simple…just lightly tug on the card reader to ensure that it’s secure before swiping your card.  A card skimming device will easily pull off as it’s usually taped or lightly glued on top of the existing card reader.  If the reader pulls off do not use the machine and report it immediately to authorities. 
    • Travelling over the holidays and planning on using your MutualBank debit card?  Make sure you Call Before You Travel to ensure uninterrupted debit card use!

    Remember that you are the best defense against online shopping fraud!  If you suspect that you have been scammed please call MutualBank Customer Support at 800-382-8031. Also please report any online fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

    Have a safe and happy holiday season from MutualBank, helping you live a better life!

     

    This post is written by John Mickle, Risk Management and Compliance at MutualBank

  • The Fiscal Cliff and Long Term Investments

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    If it bleeds it leads! That supposedly is an old adage of the news reporting profession. I don’t know if hard-nosed newspaper editors ever did actually say that to fledgling reporters any place other than in a film noir movie script but it does symbolize a true human tendency. We pay attention to negatives.

    Why we do it, I don’t know. Disasters and crime, personal scandals of celebrities, politicians and the powerful are hot topics. Weather reporters breathlessly (and endlessly during my favorite TV programs) train their radar on every wind that shows the slightest circular motion during every thunderstorm that blows through regardless of how mild. And we watch.

    It’s the same with financial news. You still occasionally see an investment person on television today bragging about how they predicated the stock market crash of 1987! Cable TV hosts, authors of magazine articles and investment newsletter writers thrive on highlighting negatives because it gets your attention and helps them sell the commercials, ads and newsletter subscriptions from which they make their living.

    Today we hear about the fiscal cliff approaching with the New Year, the sovereign debt crises in Europe, the declining U.S. dollar, geo-political upheavals abounding, the greater regulatory burden being put on business, and the ups and downs of the stock markets which appear to be of greater magnitude than before. This gloomy haze of negative news and focus on the short term makes it easy to lose sight of the long range reasons to be invested in the stock market.

    Most of the financial news media is geared towards short term trading otherwise, why would you need to watch every day?  If you own a local dry cleaning business or florist shop you don’t pay much attention to how much you could sell your business for on any given day. Your focus is on taking care of your customers so you can increase sales and profits and continue to pay yourself an income that rises over the years. If you do that, the market price of the business will also increase over time.

    For most people, investing in stocks should be the same. Stocks represent businesses that you own a piece of. Selection of good businesses that take care of their customers and have rising sales, profits, and dividends (income to the owners) should be the primary concerns. Day-to-day or quarter-to-quarter fluctuations are generally insignificant in the long run. This doesn’t mean you don’t keep an eye on value or change investments from time to time just try to focus more on your long term objectives.

    There are many, many companies in the U.S. and elsewhere that have survived depressions, recessions, world wars, socialist governments, and other adversities while paying a cash dividend every year for 50, 60, or 100 years or more. They followed the short term ups and downs of the market but generally are worth much more today.

    A business-owner approach to investing with a long term focus may make you lose interest in most of the financial news. Maybe that’s a good way to go ahead…live a better life.

     

    This post is written by David Riggs, Vice President and Trust Investment Officer of MutualWealth Management Group.

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