Bellwether's Blog on life and money
For years, I balanced my checkbook every month! Saturday mornings I'd pay bills, and each month, when my statement came in the mail, I'd sit down, and go through the register, ticking off checks, making a note of anything that hadn’t yet been cashed, and congratulating myself when those columns added up and everything balanced. I remember spending two hours once trying to track down an 18 cent error. What a waste of a Saturday.
Enter the World of Electronic Banking
About 12 years ago, I was having lunch with a friend. She stopped eating mid bite,
“Ooh, give me a sec, I forgot to make my car payment.” She walked over to her computer and after a couple clicks of the keyboard, she returned to the table.
“What was that?” I asked.
“I just paid my car payment. I use that online banking thing and I love it! I don’t even balance my checkbook anymore! I keep track of everything online.”
I had visions of myself surrounded by checks and bills on a sunny Saturday. No more! The moment I got home I went online and signed up for online billpay. Back then they charged a fee for it, probably $4 or $5 a month, but considering the stamps, time and checks I’d be saving, that seemed a reasonable fee.
Flash forward a decade or more and it seems everyone uses online banking and bill pay, and it's FREE! Plus they offer eStatements and eBills which cuts back on mail. I usually set up bill payments a month or more in advance, use the recurring payment option for things like my mortgage, and I know that my payment will get where it needs to go, when it needs to be there! No more lost checks in the mail! No more sunny Saturdays trying to find eighteen cents!
Even With Electronic Banking, It's Best to Monitor Your Accounts
If you go with electronic banking, you still need to keep an eye on your account. I set up an automatic weekly reminder. This came in handy recently, when I noticed that an eBill had come in for the second month in a row showing that I was behind on a payment. I know I’d made it on time. After some research, I discovered that when I received a new credit card recently, I’d typed in the wrong number to my Bill Pay account. The payments had gone into a black hole at the credit card company and eventually got refunded… not credited to my account! I provided the credit card company with copies of eStatements, and explained the error I’d made with the account number. They happily refunded me the late fees! I'm not sure how long it would have taken me to discover the error if I'd been balancing checks the old fashioned way.
- Electronic Banking is a time saver!
- eStatements provide easy, paperless access to all your records and payments.
- You need to check your account information periodically.
Bellwether offers Online Banking, Free Bill Pay, eStatements, External Transfers, Pay Your Loan (so you can make payments on your Bellwether loans with funds from other financial institutions) and mobile banking so you can manage your accounts, transfer funds, and even make payments all from your mobile device.
There are lots of options to make your banking easier. Why not give it a try?0 Comment(s)
Have you ever wanted to sit outside and watch a movie with friends over dinner and drinks? Before you start draping a sheet from your deck and buying a projector, why not check out what the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce has done in downtown Nashua? Starting in June, and running thru August every other Wednesday night you can catch a classic movie such as Anchorman, Top Gun, or Office Space on the big screen, right on streets of downtown!
Hosted on East & West Pearl Street, you’ll enjoy an outdoor dining experience complete with a customized food menu and themed drinks from local restaurants. Some of the restaurants involved this year were Villa Banca, Surf and Martha's Exchange. Arrive by 6pm to claim good seats at one of the 20+ ten-person tables, order some appetizers and get the night started. The movie doesn’t start until the sun has almost set so you’ll have plenty of time to eat, chat and enjoy a beverage of your choice. Once the movie starts, servers continue to take orders. The street is blocked off, so you don’t have to worry about cars, and restrooms are located just inside the host restaurant. Watch for the 2015 schedule in May.
Even though the Downtown Dinner & Movie series is over for this year, there are other alternative outdoor movie venues to check out before the winter arrives.
Milford Drive-In: Open from April thru September, rain or shine. Enjoy new releases right from the comfort of your vehicle and full concessions are available. Check website for screen schedules.
Prescott Park (Portsmouth) Monday Night Movie Series: Enjoy family-friendly films like The Incredibles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Frozen under the stars. Concessions are available but be sure to bring your own blanket or chair. (Check the schedule before you go, some movies are rated R)
Outdoor Movie Rentals: Why not put on the best outdoor movie night possible for your friends and family, or your co-workers? You can with the help of Community Events and their Outdoor Movie Rental packages.0 Comment(s)
It's never too early to cook up a plan to secure your future with smart financial planning.
Now that you've graduated, you're on your way to the life you always envisioned—working in your chosen profession, and making your way in the world on your own terms. But here's a secret they may not have taught you in college—you're in the perfect place to start having your money work for you, whether your goal is to buy a home, or to secure your retirement years.
Why you should start investing now
It's important to set aside money in a savings account so you're prepared to face life's emergencies, but creating an investment plan should also be on your financial to-do list. You probably aren't at your full earning potential yet, but every dollar you're able to put aside today will grow exponentially 40 or more years from now.
Here's an example using the Bellwether Investment Return Online Calculator on our website:
Use the Bellwether Investment Return Calculator to see how just $50 each month can add up to over $34,000 after 25 years (based on no initial investment and a 7% rate of return according to Standard & Poors reported returns for a 10-year period ending December, 2012.)"
Why you should take advantage of your employer's 401(k) plan
Here's the reason in two words—free money!
A 401(k) is a retirement savings plan provided by an employer. It allows an employer to deduct and set aside (in a savings vehicle) a pre-determined amount of your income before taxes are deducted. That means you're taxed on a lower income, plus earning money on the deducted portion. PLUS in most cases employers will match part or all of your contribution. Not bad, right? If possible, invest enough in your 401(k) to qualify for the full match (the amount your employer puts in as a result of how much you contribute).
According to this Forbes article "Workers under age 50 can contribute up to $17,500 to these programs in 2013. Your contributions, deducted from your paycheck automatically, can grow tax-deferred* until you take it out, ideally in retirement."†
So how should you start?
Here are 7 steps to follow when you're getting ready to start an investment plan, courtesy of SmartAboutMoney.org‡:
- Create a budget—Before you can save money, you need to to know where your money is going. (Try this Budgeting Spreadsheet)
- Scrutinize your spending—Is there anything you discovered when making your budget that you can cut back on? You may have more money than you think!
- Understand your debt—Make note of the debt you owe and make a plan to pay it down. Surprisingly, most people find they can pay down debt AND save money for investments at the same time. (Download this debt management App)
- Pay yourself first—Follow this key principal and earmark part of your earnings for reasonable levels of life and health insurance (top off your employer-supplied coverage if necessary), regular payments into your health savings account, your emergency fund, and debt repayment.
- Set goals—Do you want to save for a car, a house, or a comfortable monthly retirement income—or even all three? Knowing your goals will help you plan to achieve them.
- Create a spending plan—Give yourself some rules for day-to-day spending. This will let you stay on track to realize your goals.
- Talk to a professional—The staff at Bellwether can help you with your budget, your debt and your financial goals.
How Bellwether Can Help
While the above is a great start, there's nothing like sitting down with someone who understands your dreams and your goals, as well as the different options available, and how they'll best work for you. Contact us to arrange a time to help you get your future off to a solid start.
*Check with your financial advisor for specific tax information regarding 401(k)s.5 Comment(s)
Last Saturday I attended the Downtown Music Festival held right on Main Street in downtown Nashua. While the turnout probably wasn't what was expected, I was really caught by the spirit of the people who did attend, or stood on the outside watching both Hot Like Fire and then Entrain play some amazing music. It reminded me of my younger days, when my hometown had a big block party around the 4th of July or Labor Day weekend. Family and friends got together to enjoy the music, a chance to chat with people they may not have seen over the summer, and enjoyed being out on a warm summer evening, away from the house, the internet, work worries, and all the other things that can sometimes keep us in the house and stressing these days. Funny, but I thought those kinds of events were gone with my childhood. Happy to see that in fact, you can find some great community events in and around Nashua throughout the year, where kids and adults can come together to share music, fun and time together. Following is a list of events I found. Mark your calendars and start building memories for the future!
Downtown Music Festival - There's one more concert this year! Mark you calendar and head on down to Nashua!
Downtown Dinner & Movie Night - OK, this one's done for the season, but I've been two at least a half dozen of these events in years past and can vouch, there's nothing quite like sitting at a table in the middle of downtown Nashua, being served dinner and watching classics like Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Graduate, The Princess Bride, all while enjoying a beverage and chatting with friends.
Holiday Stroll - It may be a bit early to think of the winter holidays, but if you've never been to this event, you're missing out! Usually held at the end of November, this is a great time for the family. Includes live music, dance, theater, face painting, a visit from Santa, street vendors, and some great specials to help out with your holiday shopping! Main Street is closed and there are shuttle buses available!
Head to the Drive-In - OK, so this isn't in Nashua, but it's worth a drive. Head over to Milford, NH and the Milford Drive-In theater. Just like in the old days. This year it was just $25/car load for up to 6 people! You can't see a movie at a regular cinema for that price!
Great American Downtown - Nashua has made some huge changes to their downtown area, and feature concerts, movies, artwalks, holiday celebrations and more. If you haven't stopped by, mark your calendar today! You'll find inexpensive and free events to share with your family, right in your own backyard!
These days travel can be expensive, and time with family can be hard to squeeze into an already crowded calendar. Why not seek out family fun and entertainment in your own backyard? You'll be saving money, and supporting your community at the same time.2 Comment(s)
Summer Savings to prepare for Upcoming Holidays and Events
Christmas in July is a tradition that celebrates the joy of the holidays during the warm summer months. It has many different possible origins, but the first known celebration was back in the 1930’s at a summer camp, as a fun way to look forward to the holidays during the heat of summer.
Retailers have added a new twist to the fun, and savings are being celebrated all summer long! Whether you are looking to stock up on last minute summer gear, getting a head start on school shopping, or shopping early for those winter holidays, it’s your chance to celebrate the most wonderful time of year, twice!
Go Ahead, Treat Yourself with a Bargain!
Was there something you wanted in the beginning of the summer that you didn’t buy? Maybe a new bathing suit, camping gear, or some new summer wardrobe? Well it’s not too late!
USA Weekend outlines 3 recommendations for summer savings:
- Shop for Summer wardrobe. Retailers are already looking ahead to Fall and clearing their shelves. This includes major retailers like Target and Walmart as well as specialty shops.
- Find cheaper gym memberships. It’s their off season since people prefer to be out enjoying the sunshine.
- Take a trip to a warm destination. Prices will be lower because most people plan a getaway during the cold winter months.
More concerned about that summer gear that you need? Patio furniture, lawn equipment, and outdoor camping and fishing gear are all on sale too!
Coupon Stacking is another method helping shoppers to get the best deals. Which retailers allow you to use multiple coupons? Lifehacker.com lists the following 7 retailers:
Back to School Never Looked so Good!
It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. I remember when I was younger feeling like school had just ended and it was already time to buy supplies for the upcoming school year.
Check out this link from Greatschools. It offers 10 tips for smart back to school shopping. Some of the tips from the list include:
- Don’t forget your list
- Buy in bulk
- Shop Summer Sales (If you only remember one tip, remember this one).
Major retailers already have school supplies on sale. Don’t delay. Check out your local sale papers.
Sales are Seasonal when it Comes to Coupons
The end of August and the end of October have been the best time of year for coupon deals for the past 2 years. Keep your eyes open for upcoming sales and markdown deals on:
- Large appliances – BBQ grills, lawn mowers, snow blowers
- Small appliances – computers, printers, air conditioners
- Cars – new models arrive in the fall, which means last year’s models need to go!
Now is a great time to save big bucks on items for the whole family! Don’t miss out on buying the stuff you need for the best prices.0 Comment(s)