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Bellwether's Blog on life and money

Grad Finances Part 1 - Investments & 401(k)s

Posted in Main Blog
August 21, 2014 by BCCU
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graduate cake topper, on top of cake with icing stars


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:

Annual investment returns graph






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‡:

  1. Create a budget—Before you can save money, you need to to know where your money is going. (Try this Budgeting Spreadsheet)
  2. 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!
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Create a spending plan—Give yourself some rules for day-to-day spending. This will let you stay on track to realize your goals.
  7. 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.

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Nashua, NH - A Cultural and Activity Rich City!

Posted in Main Blog
August 20, 2014 by Guest
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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!

photo of audience and stage

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.

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Santa has Arrived During the Heat Wave!

Posted in Main Blog
August 19, 2014 by Amanda N.
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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!happy woman with shopping bags

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? 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.


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The Rising Cost of Being a Bridesmaid

Posted in Main Blog
August 15, 2014 by Amanda N.
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How much will it really cost you to be part of her special day?

Planning a wedding can be a stressful time for the bride, but having her friends become a part of it should make it fun. The dresses, shoes, hair styles, shower, and bachelorette party all seem enjoyable until you start adding up the costs. How much exactly will it cost you if one of your friends presents you with this “special honor”?

Cost of Wardrobe

photo of bridesmaid and brides bouquets, a personal finance management service, says the average cost of a bridesmaid dress BEFORE alterations is $150, and the dress always needs alterations. Have you seen the movie 27 Dresses? Alterations aren’t the only thing you need to worry about. The bride may or may not allow you to have some input in the dress, but the funds don’t stop there.

  • Jewelry
  • Shoes
  • Hair
  • Make-up

If you’re lucky, the bride may help with some of the costs or in a few instances at least allow for a DIY hair and make-up option. Doing your hair and make-up yourself will save a lot of money, maybe $100 or more. Don’t be afraid to recommend this option. The other bridesmaids may thank you!

Paying for the Shower

The bridal shower is another part of being a bridesmaid that adds up. There are ways to cut the price if you are in charge of the planning. Get creative and think of alternative methods to give her a special shower without going to the extreme.

  • Host it at a friend’s home
  • Use eVites instead of printed invites
  • Cater it yourself
  • Create your own games & decorations. I suggest checking out Pinterest for ideas to get you started!

Affording the Bachelorette Party

The third responsibility of a bridesmaid is planning the bachelorette party. Use these tips to cut the cost of the event:

  • Stay local and plan a party at a venue in town.
  • Book travel in advance. The longer you wait the more it will cost. (See this list from USA Today for the cheapest days to travel in 2014.)
  • Organize the party at the same location as the wedding. This way you will only deal with flights once.
  • Research group discounts.

Buying a Wedding Gift

US News recommends setting a budget for the wedding gift first, as a separate item. Consider buying a group gift from all the bridesmaids. If you’re crafty, DIY projects are another recommendation for a personalized, budget-friendly gift. Ideas for this can also be found on Pinterest.

Being a bridesmaid is possible without completely breaking your savings account. Just remember, it’s the thought that counts, unless your bride turns into a Bridezilla. Then your best bet is to accept that you’ll both look back on this and laugh later.


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Get Ready to Sweat

Posted in Main Blog
August 12, 2014 by Jenn R.
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Crossfit: The increasingly popular, high intensity workout

Do you ever get bored with running on the treadmill? Are you tired of your dead end workout plan? I know I am. What if there was an alternative to boring workouts and feeling like you’re not gaining the results that you want? There is! The answer is CrossFit.

If you work out regularly, you can’t avoid it. The popularity of this high intensity workout is growing.

Learn the Crossfit Lingo

3 terms you’ll hear when you speak the Crossfitters language:

  • A Box – No, it’s not a type of storage unit. A box is a gym that specializes in Crossfit.
  • WOD – In case you thought you were only going to be working out occasionally, the Workout of the Day is posted every day on the Crossfit website.
  • AMRAP – This stands for as many reps or rounds as possible. You didn’t actually think you would just do the workouts one time did you?

Crossfit provides a great total body workout, but joining a CrossFit gym can be expensive. Luckily, there are other options that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Most CrossFit workouts can be done at these alternative places:

  • Your local gym
  • A park
  • At home (yes, even there!)

Research local gyms in your area to find out if they offer discounts or free trial periods for new members. I found that my local gym has everything I need to do the workouts!

Park workouts are a new trend where Crossfitters meet outside and use park benches, monkey bars, and their own body weight. This is a great way to get your workout in and enjoy the fresh air with friends and maybe make a few new ones!

Some local parks that offer fitness trails include:

woman on monkey bars

Check out the CrossFit website for the free WOD. Many exercises don’t require special equipment. You’ll be able to do them right in the comfort of your own home. Remember to do modifications based on your fitness level. This helps avoid injuries.

Workout of the Day

CrossFit is a combination of weights, cardio, and Calisthenics to build strength. Workouts may include exercises such as burpees, box jumps, lunges, and deadlifts. Check out this link for a complete list of Crossfit exercises from the official Crossfit website.

Every workout is different. This is why each workout has its own name. The average workout is only 20 minutes in length.

The CrossFit WOD will have a name and recommendations for the amount of time and reps you should spend on each exercise.

Health and fitness is fun when you find the workout that’s right for you. Stay physically and financially healthy by exercising without breaking the bank.

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