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‘Tis the Season…Not to Go Broke!

The season of giving is upon us! But, before you head out
the door to join the hustle and bustle at your local mall or begin filling your
shopping cart at your favorite online shopping sites, here are a few tips to keep
you from overspending and going into debt this holiday season.

Develop a holiday
shopping budget…and stick to it!

The first and most important thing you need to do is to
develop a realistic and reasonable holiday budget.  This will save you from impulse buying and
overspending.

If you haven’t saved already, look at your current household
budget and determine how much money you can allocate each week (paycheck) to
holiday spending. This includes gifts, food (items you only purchase during the
holiday season), decorations and travel. There may be items on your current
household budget you can eliminate until after the holidays (e.g. your daily
latte) and/or you could pick up a part-time holiday job to save even more
money.

Look for deals

Start browsing for people on your list, looking for the best
deals.  Beware…the best prices are not
necessarily found on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These days typically offer
good deals on items like electronics, apparel and beauty products. You will
usually find better deals on toys and outerwear later in December.

Many stores will negotiate their prices to meet competitors
so you will buy from them. Doing your homework, comparing prices, before you
hit the big box stores will put you in a better negotiating position.

Use your credit cards
wisely

Using your credit cards for your holiday purchases may save
you money, especially if you utilize your card member perks/rewards, but only
if you’re able to pay off the monthly balance. The interest you will have to
pay if you don’t far outweighs the value of the card’s rewards.

Save money on
purchases with discounted gift cards

Sites like GiftCardGranny or CardPool sell discounted gift
cards. You can use them to make in-store purchases and save on whatever you
buy. If you couple the discounted gift card with a coupon, you’ll really save
money on your purchase.

Don’t go overboard
buying holiday attire

You don’t need a new outfit for every holiday function. Make
a few solid pieces unique by accessorizing. That same little black dress will
have a whole new look with different jewelry and shoes or a colorful scarf or a
dressy sweater or jacket. Be creative!

Hold off on self-purchases
until after the holidays

Many people like to buy that special something for
themselves during the holiday season. But, resisting this temptation will give
you more wiggle room in your holiday budget. Wait until after the holidays to
satisfy this urge by using gift cards you may have received. You will also reap
the benefits of the post-holiday sales.

DIY

People love receiving homemade gifts. So, bring out your
inner Martha Stewart and make your money go even further. Come up with more
sentimental gifts that won’t break the bank.

When it’s all said and done, consider your long-term
financial goals. Is it worth depleting your savings or racking up high-interest
debt for one day? Think about the true meaning of the holiday season…the
special time spent with friends and loved ones.

Have an open and honest conversation about your budget with
your family prior to the holidays. Most likely, they have been stressing about
overspending too.

From our Intracoastal Bank family to yours, have a safe and
blessed holiday season!

Remembering Jane

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is just around the corner. Where did the year go? As we, the Intracoastal Bank family, happily anticipate the first holiday of this wondrous season, Thanksgiving, we are also mourning the loss of a longtime member of our banking family, Jane Worthing. Jane, who was 57, passed away recently after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer.

Jane was born in Augusta, Maine. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Prior to her 8 ½ -year tenure with Intracoastal Bank, as our Secrecy Act Officer, handling compliance issues and legal requests, and monitoring accounts for fraud issues, Jane worked for the Bank of New York.

Jane will be greatly missed by her Intracoastal Bank family as well as all the customers she assisted during her time with us. Jane was considered as one of the most selfless people – always going above and beyond to help others – by both her coworkers and managers.

When Jane wasn’t giving of herself through her duties at the bank, she spent her time traveling, especially internationally, reading and hanging out with her two, much cherished cats. Jane is survived by her parents, a brother and sister-in-law and a niece.

Ovarian cancer, which begins in the ovaries or the fallopian tubes, has been dubbed “the silent killer” because of its low survival rate (an overall 5-year survival rate of 47 percent). Also labeled as the “whispering disease” because no specific test diagnoses it, ovarian cancer’s prognosis is unfavorable due to the delay in detecting it.

The American Cancer Society estimates for ovarian cancer in the U.S. for 2019 are:

• About 22,530 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
• About 13,980 women will die from ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women and accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the reproductive system. Ovarian cancer mostly develops in older women, about 50 percent diagnosed at age 63 or older, and is most common in white women.

Sadly, our Jane is one of these statistics.

So, this year, as our Intracoastal family sits around the Thanksgiving table, we’ll be counting our many blessings, which include our health, family, friends, and the wonderful customers we continue to serve in our community. We will also take a quiet moment to fondly remember those who are no longer with us, including our Jane.

From all of us at Intracoastal Bank, may you and your family have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday!

Trade School or College?

By the end of the 1950s, the focus of education in the United States shifted from vocational and job-ready skills to preparing all high school students, through college prep courses, for college. However, today, statistics indicate that the highly coveted bachelor’s degree doesn’t seem to carry the weight it once did.

The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that approximately 68 percent of high school students attend college. The remaining students graduate with neither academic nor job-ready skills. But even the 68 percent aren’t fairing that well. Almost 40 percent of these students, as low as 10 percent for those in poverty, don’t complete a four-year college program, wasting a lot of time and money, and often acquiring significant student debt. Of those students who do graduate, the BLS found that about 37 percent end up with jobs they could’ve obtained with a high school degree.

In the United States, a college degree has been viewed as the pathway to success, and it still is for many. Earnings studies do show that college graduates earn more over their lifetime than high school graduates. However, these studies don’t take into account the amount of debt these students take on in pursuit of higher education (the outstanding student debt balance in the U.S. was $1.5 trillion as of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve) nor that more than half of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. In addition, these studies don’t include data on those high school students who graduated with vocational training. These graduates have gone on to well-paying, skilled jobs, creating a rosier picture for them than many of their college graduate counterparts.

The U.S. economy has changed. The manufacturing sector is growing and modernizing. This, along with the demise of vocational education in high school and retiring baby boomer, skilled trades workers, has created, and will continue to create, a significant demand for skilled labor. The skills shortage in manufacturing today has created a wealth of opportunities for high school and unemployed and underemployed graduates alike. Many of these jobs are attainable through apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and vocational programs offered at community colleges.

Even with the above statistics aside, the traditional 4-year degree isn’t for everyone. People have a diverse range of skills and learning styles. Some do best in a lecture hall or classroom, studying math, biology, history and other traditional subjects, while others learn best by doing, and would thrive in a studio, workshop or shop floor.

There are still many advantages to a 4-year degree. As stated before, most college graduates will earn more money over their lifetime, especially if they continue their studies through master’s or doctoral degrees. However, the cost/benefit equation to higher education is changing every day. The education system needs to recognize this and that vocational schools can offer students with valuable skills, resulting in competitive paying jobs and a secure financial future. Students need to be exposed to the possibility of vocational training as an alternative to the college degree, helping both them and their parents see a variety of paths to a successful future.

National Internet Safety Month

June is designated as National Internet Safety Month as a
means of spotlighting the importance of safe online practices for you and your
family.

As we head into summer, and, according to the National Cyber
Security Alliance, our children and teens begin spending an average of 7.5
hours each day with electronic devices, this month provides the perfect time to
spread awareness of the various ways we can keep our families and ourselves
safe on the Internet.

Today, with social media and social networking becoming
increasingly important in people’s everyday lives, even Grandma’s, ensuring a
safe online experience for you and your family can seem daunting. So, here are
a few guidelines that can help you keep the entire family safe in today’s
increasingly threatening digital world.

  • Home
    Wi-Fi Security

Your home Wi-Fi gives your children or
grandchildren access to the Internet from anywhere in your house. This makes it
more difficult to monitor their online activity. So, make sure your Wi-Fi is
highly secured by using strong router passwords, enabling wireless encryption,
to prevent strangers from seeing or having access to your network.

  • Read
    Online Privacy Policies Carefully

Websites and social networks that require
basic information from you when you create an account with them have privacy
policies. So, whenever you or a family member want to join a new social network
or set up a new website account make sure you know the creator’s privacy
policies – how they intend to use your information and what they do to ensure
the information you give them remains safe from dangers such as phishing and
identity theft.

  • Ensure the
    Whole Family Practices Safe Social Networking

Unless a social network is specifically
created for kids, a child under the age of 13 shouldn’t subscribe to a social
network. However, everyone else that does should use their personal information
wisely – don’t use full names, disclose birthdays or addresses. In addition,
you shouldn’t discuss your vacation plans or share photos with identifiable
details (your home address, car license plate number, etc.). You should also
talk to your children about cyberbullying and online predators and stalkers.

  • Ensure
    Safe Online Gaming

Kids and teens can interact with
their friends and people they don’t know in a fun way via live online games. However,
this can expose them to dangers such as bullying and predators. Make sure your
child uses only a nickname or an avatar (a icon or a figure) when playing
games. In addition, carefully monitor your child’s play and use the parental
controls – safety measures – the game offers.

  • Install
    Parental Control Tools on Family Computers

Although open communication and trust
is always the best practice when it comes to your child’s online use, some
extra precaution doesn’t hurt. Parental control tools can block your child’s
access to inappropriate websites as well as monitor their online activity.
Implementing a parental control tool isn’t about spying on your child. It’s
about keeping them safe from the growing number of online dangers.

  • Create
    Safe Passwords

Creating strong account passwords will help
keep hackers from breaching your online accounts and stealing your identity.
Create a strong, unique password for each online account and change it
regularly.  Make your passwords long, at
least eight characters, and a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Also,
whenever possible, use security questions with answers only you’d know. Teach
your family members this practice as well.

  • Install A
    Complete Internet Security Program on Family Computers

An effective security program will protect you
and your family from malicious links, viruses and malware.

  • Only
    Download and Install Software from Trusted Sources

The Internet provides access to free games,
movies, etc. However, some of them contain spyware and other types of malware
that can compromise your computer as well as the whole family’s Internet
security.

  • Look for
    https:// in Website URLs

The https:// at the beginning of a web
address means it’s a secure site. This should appear in every bank or online
shopping site you use. In addition, if you or a family member bank or shop
online, make sure the Wi-Fi is secure.

  • Recognize
    and Avoid Phishing Scams

Cybercrooks are after your personal
information, and they’ll use all kinds of email and text scams to try to obtain
it. Watch out for alarming messages and threats of bank account or credit card
closures. You and your family members should also be wary of requests for
charitable donations, lottery wins and giveaways as well as links contained in
suspicious looking emails, texts or websites.

  • Backup
    Important Files/Data on Your Computer Regularly

You never know when your computer will crash
or become the victim of an accident or a cyber attack. So, backup your home
computers on a regular basis to keep your data safe and sound.

  • Stay
    Informed About Internet Security Threats

The best defense is always a good offense.
You don’t have to be an Internet security specialist/analyst to defend your
family from online dangers. You just need some basic knowledge.  So, do your homework and stay informed.

Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

Summer is just around the corner, and so is hurricane
season. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and runs
through November 30.  With May 5-11 set
aside as National Hurricane Preparedness Week, there’s no better time to make
sure you’re ready if you live in an area prone to tropical cyclones.

Are you prepared?

According
to FDEM (Florida Division of Emergency Management), all Floridians should have a
disaster preparedness plan (if you don’t one, this week, National Hurricane
Preparedness Week, is the perfect time to develop one) based on their own
personal needs as well as an emergency kit to sustain themselves and their
family for up to 72 hours after a hurricane strikes.

The most
important person to protect your life and property during a hurricane…or any
natural disaster is not the firefighter or police officer or a representative
from the federal government…it is you. By taking a few simple steps over this
next week, you’ll be prepared if you are affected by hurricane this season.

Some initial steps

  1. Determine if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if your home would be unsafe during a hurricane. If so, determine where you’d go and how you’d get there in the event you have to evacuate. If you have pets, make sure to account for them in your plan.
  2. Get an insurance checkup. Call your insurance company/agent and review your current policy. Are you insured for a hurricane…repairs or if you have to replace your home? Keep in mind standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate flood policy. Flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting to period, so you’ll want to act now. 
  3. Develop a written plan. Begin by identifying an out-of-town contact that all family members know to reach should you become separated. This individual would serve as a contact person for family members to report to and to let them know where they are and that they are safe. Identify a location away from home for family members to meet in case your home is inaccessible. Be sure all family members are aware of this location.
  4. Prepare a disaster supply kit. This would include but would not be limited to the following:

Enough
food, canned and dried food or anything easy to prepare and doesn’t require
refrigeration, and water, one gallon for each person per day, to last for 3
days.

A
manual can opener

Sleeping
bags or cots

Flashlights
and lanterns with extra batteries

First-aid
kit

Bathroom
supplies

Medicines
(prescriptions and over-the-counter medications)

Soap
and hand sanitizer

Rain
gear and tarps

Pet
supplies

Facemasks

Tools

Cell phone
charger

NOAA
all-hazards weather radio or battery-powered radio

Credit
cards and cash (bring enough cash keep you afloat for at least three days in
the event there is no electrical power to operate credit/debit card machines)

Written
list of important contacts

Games

5. Get
your home ready. Whether you decide to ride out the storm in your home or
evacuate, make sure your home is up to local hurricane building code
specifications and amply protected from the damage hurricane-force winds can
produce (e.g. have plywood on hand to cover windows, trim trees on your
property, have a safe place to store loose items such as porch/pool furniture,
etc.). 

These
steps are a good beginning. But, preparedness comes in all sizes, and you’ll
want to customize your plan to meet your individual and collective needs.
However, the best plan for everyone is the plan that begins today. To be better
prepared to plan for, respond to, and recover from a hurricane, visit hurricanes.gov/prepare.

Succession Planning…A Must for Business Owners

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

People become business owners for a variety of reasons. The driving force behind most business owners is the belief that they can do things better than anyone else, the allure of being their own “boss,” and the ability to be the master of their own destiny and build their own wealth.

The natural evolution of being a business owner begins the minute you start or buy the business. The life cycle continues as you design, build and grow your business into something special…and profitable. However, at some point, the sooner the better, you must begin planning for an exit strategy, or a succession plan, to ensure the kind of legacy you want to leave behind with your business.

Most business owners don’t prepare for their exit. In fact, a recent trust survey revealed that only approximately 40 percent of small business owners have a succession plan in place. The majority of those without a plan said that they enjoy what they do so much that they can’t imagine a transition of ownership, while the remainder of the business owners surveyed said they were too busy to plan or felt that succession is still too far away in the future to begin thinking about it. But, life happens fast and unexpected life events can happen at any age. So, if you own your own business and you don’t have your exit strategy…succession plan in place, it’s time to get started!

How to build your succession plan

First, you must ask yourself a few important questions. Do you plan on selling your business to a third party at a certain price, do you want your business to live on through one or more or your children or do you see yourself selling to a third party yet maintaining a level of involvement in the company? This decision is key to how you will build your succession plan.

Once you’ve determined this, begin by taking the following steps:

1. Gather financial documents – A smooth transition of ownership begins with organizing the company’s financial documents like valuation data, inventory and up-to-date financial reports (audited P&L and Balance Sheet Statements). Buyers and lenders will want to review these records to determine how the business has performed historically before entertaining a deal. Organizing and consolidating your financial documents also protects your business if an unexpected circumstance forces you to sell or a family member is left handling a transition.

2. Establish a buy-sell agreement – A buy-sell agreement is a legally binding contract that allocates portions of the business in the event an owner passes away, becomes seriously ill or is contemplating selling his or her share of the business. This agreement contains information about the business like its sale price, the value of each owner’s share and stipulations such as who can or can’t buy the business. A buy-sell agreement also reduces the risk of conflicts among family members or partners who may not have the company’s best interest at heart.

3. Begin identifying your potential successor(s) – As a successful business owner, you’ve built your company from the ground up…it’s your baby…your pride and joy. Consequently, you want the business to continue to flourish when you are no longer at the helm. For this to happen, you must select the right person. Finding the right person, however, takes time. Whether you choose a family member or an outsider to take over your business, you will need to train them to run the business. By having an active role in the training process, you’re afforded the opportunity to develop and evaluate the critical skills and business traits of your potential successor to help ensure the long-term success of the business.

4. Establish a timeline – Set a timetable to determine when the control of your company will be turned over to your successor. Ease your successor into the transition, allowing him or her to make decisions, as well as mistakes, during this phase.

5. Execute your succession plan – If you’ve done your homework…the proper preparations, this should be as simple as handing over the keys. But, before you step aside make sure all your account information is organized and readily available to the new owner. As part of an exit strategy, you should have all sensitive login credentials for email servers, business software, IT systems, etc. organized and in a secure place to pass on to the new owner(s) or you should assist them with setting up new ones before you leave.

A well-thought-out succession plan is essential for small businesses and partnerships. Planning early and revisiting the plan as conditions change are the keys to a successful transition of ownership when that day arrives. With many options available to you and your business, you’ll greatly benefit from the counsel of a business and commercial law attorney. He or she will be an invaluable resource in helping you design a plan that is right for your business as well as minimize your business’s tax burden.

How to Take Control of Your Money in Your 20s

Your decisions today forward will affect not only your life, but also your entire legacy.– Dave Ramsey

Some of the most memorable and exciting times of your life are in your 20s…as well as some of the biggest life decisions. At this time of your life you’ve entered the work force, have more responsibility and finally have some disposable income you can call your own. You may be entertaining marriage, starting a family, buying a home or even traveling the world.

As wonderful as all this freedom…independence sounds, it also comes with significant financial consequences that can be not so wonderful if you’re not careful. Building healthy habits around money management now, while you’re young, will help you meet your financial goals in the future.

Here are a few tips to get you started on the right path:

  • Control spending – establish a budget

Spending responsibly is the foundation of financial health. To get a sense of how much you spend and where you spend it, you need a budget. Without a budget, you risk spending too much on discretionary items and saving too little for the big-ticket items like a car or a house. 

In a recent survey, 67% of millennials said emotions cause them to spend more than they can reasonably afford. To curb this behavior, consider waiting 72 hours to make any impulse buys. This gives you time to look at the impact of this purchase on your overall budget. Differentiating between your needs, wants and dreams is the key to building a solid financial foundation.

In addition, monitor your spending on socializing or short-term gratification. Although going out to eat or going to shows is an enjoyable way to spend your leisure time, as you get older, you’ll realize this money could’ve been well spent in other places. Statistics show that millennials spend nearly 44 percent of their food budget on going out. Cutting back on this can be an excellent way to save money.

  • Build credit

Your credit report is your financial report card. An excellent credit score, 800 or above, allows you to qualify for loans with lowest interest rates, which is crucial when purchasing a new car or a house. Even if you plan to rent, many landlords use a credit report to evaluate prospective tenants. Today, many employers also use credit reports as part of their assessment of a potential employee. 

Many young adults don’t have credit scores because they don’t have a credit history. You can begin building your credit by opening a secured credit card or a credit builder loan. (Talk to your bank about these options.) Once you’ve done this, spend within your means, keeping your level of revolving debt, such as credit card debt, as low as possible, and always pay your bills on time. (Automating payments will help with this.)

In addition, you can build your credit score by reporting your rent. Nearly every major credit bureau today allows you to report your rent. This can increase your credit score tremendously. 

Check your credit report regularly to make sure nothing is blemishing your creditworthiness. You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report a year from each of the major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. If you stagger when you request your report from each bureau, you can check on your credit every four months.

  • Get insured

Like the Allstate commercials dramatize, mayhem is truly everywhere. When terrible things happen, like an unexpected trip to the emergency room, a car accident or a fire in your apartment, having good insurance can save you from an additional disaster – financial. Medical debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S.

  • Establish a rainy day fund

Insurance alone won’t cover everything life throws at you. You still need to have liquid savings on hand as an added precaution. Most financial experts recommend stashing away three to six months’ worth of expenses in an easily accessible account…like a savings account. This should be a top priority…even before saving for retirement. The faster you can build this, the sooner you can begin your long-term savings plan.

  • Establish a debt-repayment plan

Debt is a reality for many young adults, especially student loan debt. But, letting it linger, or, worse, grow, can have devastating consequences on your long-term financial health…goals. Make a plan to pay off your student loan debt as quickly possible. If you have credit card debt begin tackling this now before it gets out of hand. The first step in paying off debt quickly is establishing a budget and reining in your spending. Begin by paying off your highest interest rate credit cards first.

  • Clean up your online presence

Now that you’ve made the great leap into adulthood, it’s time to scrub your young foolishness from your public image. Your social media activity is viewable by the entire Web-surfing world, including all your current and potential employers. Remember you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

  • Quit the bank of Mom and Dad

Putting your “big boy” and “big girl” pants on…becoming a self-sufficient adult includes severing the financial umbilical cord. This begins with a job and establishing the plans listed above. If there comes a time you need to ask your parents for financial assistance, do so maturely and responsibly. This includes devising a plan to pay them back.

  • Start saving for retirement – now 

Even though retirement seems like lifetime from now, the sooner you start saving the better. Because of the magic of compounding, there’s no time like your twenties to start putting your money to work for you. In fact, compounding of earnings is so powerful that if you start saving for retirement in your twenties you can amass a large nest egg with little effort, as long as you invest regularly. 

For example, if a 25-year-old invests $2,000 a year for eight years and never invests another dollar after the age of 33, he or she will earn more by the age of 65 than a 35-year-old who invests the same $2,000 for 32 years, even though the 35-year-old invests four times as much. This is the power of the time value of money. 

It may be wise to invest in Certificates of Deposit or a Money Market fund for your short-term goals and the stock market for your medium and long-term goals. Even though the stock market isn’t for the faint of heart, historically, it has out-performed any other type of investment over time.

Find out if your employer offers a 401(k) plan or other tax-deferred retirement plans. If so, take advantage of it as soon as you’re eligible. Your contributions will be made with pre-tax dollars and the taxes on earnings will be deferred until you begin withdrawing them in retirement. Many employers will match part or all of your contribution, which results in huge gains over time for you.

There is a wealth of information on “smart” investing on the Internet. Stocks and mutual funds can be thoroughly researched on sites like Morningstar. Now may also be a great time to sit down with a reputable financial planner to help you determine how much money you’re going to need to retire and create a road map to get you there.

There’s no time like the present to save for your future.

Top Financial Resolutions for 2019

With the drop of the crystal ball in Times Square, many of us had already begun contemplating our 2019 resolutions. According to the University of Scranton, approximately 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions every January. Although losing weight, eating healthy, exercising, quitting smoking and learning a new skill or hobby make the resolution list every year, financially-themed resolutions are among the most popular. 

Sadly, the fact is that less than 10 percent of the financially motivated resolution-makers achieve their goals. We start out with strong, resolving to get better about money matters, improve for several weeks, or maybe even months and then lapse back into our bad habits. 

In many cases, we set ourselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals and expectations. With this said, let’s start 2019 out right by making more reasonable financial promises to ourselves…ones that we may be more likely to keep. 

1.Develop a Realistic Budget and Stick to It– Even though following a budget is the most effective money management tool, only 41 percent of Americans utilize one. Contrary to what many people think, a budget only takes a little over an hour to set up and about another 30 minutes revisiting it each month. 

Start by listing your recurring monthly expenses (rent/mortgage payment, car payment, utilities, etc.) then factor in your one-time expenses like your annual Sam’s Club membership fee. Review your bank and credit card statements to get a real picture of what you spend across various categories (food, entertainment, home maintenance, etc.) each month. Now compare your total spending to your post-tax income. 

Once this framework is in place, you’ll be able to see where your money is going and where you can cut back and reallocate. Most people are surprised by how much they’re spending in one area. Knowing this can help you see where you can move some of the money to other areas such as saving or even something you’re more passionate about like travel.

A budget is more than a tool that helps you see where you can cut back on your spending. It can actually uncover other opportunities you never thought you could pursue like purchasing a new car or a bigger home.

2. Establish an Emergency Fund– Approximately 40 percent of American adults don’t have enough money saved to pay for a $400 emergency. If this is you, boosting your financial reserves should take priority over all your other financial goals in the coming year. You should have at least three months of living expenses tucked away to prevent an unexpected expense like a home or automobile repair from landing you in debt. 

You need to closely examine your budget and determine where you can cut back to be able to contribute to your emergency fund. In some cases, this may require serious changes. But, it will be worth it in the long run…keeping you financially healthy.

3. Boost Retirement Savings– You won’t be able to live on Social Security alone. These benefits are designed to replace about 40 percent of the average worker’s pre-retirement income. You will need approximately double that amount to live comfortably in retirement. That’s why it’s important to step up your retirement savings, especially if you’re older and the balance in your retirement account isn’t what it should be.

On a positive note, the retirement plan contributions limits increased for 2019. Workers under 50 can put away up to $19,000 annually in a 401(k) and $6,000 in an IRA. If you don’t have the funds to max out your 401(k) or IRA, pledge to save more than you did last year and work your way up from there.

4. Eliminate Credit Card Debt– The average American household has approximately $8,000 in credit card debt. Not only does this debt come with higher interest rates but it also has the potential to lower your credit score. 

So, it’s time to get serious about eliminating credit card debt. The best plan of attack is identifying the credit card balances with the highest interest rates, and pay them off first. You should also look into transferring your credit card balances to a single card with a lower interest rate. However, to effectively chip away at this debt requires revisiting your budget and determining where you can trim expenses to be able to allocate more to paying off this high interest debt.

Note: Although the idea of paying bills more than once a month may make you cringe, a case can be made for paying down a credit card balance in increments throughout the month. If you carry a balance, making earlier payments means paying less interest overall. In addition, multiple payments can boost your credit score along with your willpower to keep plugging away at the debt.

5. Focus on Your Physical and Emotional Health– There is a clear connection between physical, emotional and financial health. According to the American Psychological Association, money is our biggest source of stress. This stress has serious physical and emotional consequences as well as associated health care costs. 

6. Invest in Yourself– How often have you thought, “If only I could go back to school or obtain an advanced degree.” Well, there’s no time like the present to make this a reality. If money has been what’s been stopping you, make some financial changes this year (adjusting your budget) and use the savings to invest in yourself. By getting a master’s degree or a new professional license or certification, your earnings may subsequently increase to more than make up for the investment. 

So, with all this said, let’s make 2019 the year for change. With some determination, you can succeed in sticking to some of these resolutions so that you’ll have something to really celebrate when the ball drops in 2020!

The Elderly… Often Overlooked During the Holiday Season

During this season of giving, many of us will pledge ourselves to altruistic causes and/or deeds. Whether we place money in the red kettle or adopt a family in need or give a generous annual contribution to our favorite charity, this time of year opens our hearts, our calendars and our wallets. However, more than ever, there are many vulnerable elderly in need of our attention, especially during the holiday season, to help them avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The statistics are frightening!

  • Approximately 28 percent or a little over 12million seniors live alone. As people get older their likelihood of living alone only increases.
  • More and more older adults do not have children.
  • Approximately 21 percent or one in five people over 65 do not drive, the major cause of elder isolation.
  • 43 percent of the elderly population reports being lonely on a regular basis.
  • Hunger threatens more than 9 million older adults.
  • 1 million homebound seniors are malnourished.
  • Suicide rates for the elderly are high and continuing to rise.
  • Approximately 90 percent of elderly Americans receive unpaid care at home from family and friends.

It’s difficult to fathom that a country as rich as ours can haveso many hungry, stranded and lonely older adults. Even more incomprehensible is that a decade or two ago, these same people were contributing, hardworking individuals. Now, old age, in many cases, has left them on their own and fending for themselves.

Isolation and loneliness has several adverse effects on the elderly population. Some of these include:

  • Increased risk of mortality – According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults aged 52 and older.

  • Feelings of loneliness and isolation can negatively affect physical and mental health – Seniors who feel lonely and isolated have more physical and mental health problems than those who are socially engaged and connected. Illnesses and conditions such as lung disease,impaired mobility, high blood pressure, depression and pessimism are also associated with social isolation.

  • Perceived loneliness and isolation contributes to cognitive decline and risk of dementia – A finding by Dr. John Cacioppo, a neuroscientist and psychologist at the University of Chicago, who has been studying social isolation for 30 years, is that feelings of loneliness are linked to poor cognitive performance and quicker cognitive decline.

  • Socially isolated seniors are more vulnerable to elder abuse – Studies conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse have shown a connection between social isolation and increased rates of elder abuse.

While helping needy families with children typically comes to mind during the holiday season, we must not forget…overlook one of the most valuable and growing segments of our population…our elderly. So, this year, as you move into the hustle and bustle of this most giving season, why not consider volunteering with seniors? By spending time with the elderly, you can help curb some of the loneliness and isolation they often feel, especially during this time of year, and give back to your community, as well. Here are some ideas:

  • Help them with house chores
  • Set up their Christmas tree or holiday decorations. Help them prepare for the holidays.
  • Offer a ride
  • Take them to lunch or a movie
  • Provide respite for the family caregiver
  • Provide companionship
  • Share your holiday with them
  • Provide nutrition – e.g. Meals on Wheels or take a home-cooked meal to a needy senior in your neighborhood/community
  • Volunteer/participate/organize holiday activities at a local assisted living facility (Christmas caroling, decorating cookies,etc.)

These are only a few of the ways you can help make this holiday season special for someone who might be feeling especially lonely and depressed. And in return, you will receive the best gift of all…the gratification/pleasure of giving.

Happy Holidays from Our Intracoastal Bank family to yours!

Disposing of Outdated Electronics…Safely and Securely

Let’s face it, we’ve become a disposable society. When in doubt, we throw it out…especially if the item isn’t the latest and greatest technological gadget.

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, TVs and printers/copiers have all become more affordable which means we can replace outdated devices with newer, better and faster much more quickly. But, an important question remains, “How do we safely and securely dispose of these old devices?”

The United States produces more e-waste annually than any other country. Approximately 9.4 million tons are thrown away annually, according to the EPA. Disappointingly, only 12.5 percent of our e-waste is recycled. Cell phones alone account for over $60 million in gold and/or silver that is thrown away every year.

Not only are we tossing valuable resources into our landfills, but we are also running the risk of leaching toxic substances into the soil. Numerous chemicals are used in the production of electronics, many of which, as they break down, release harmful materials into the atmosphere and ground. This isn’t the only danger in causally disposing of our outdated electronics. When we dispose of our mobile devices, we also expose ourselves to the possibility of our sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.

So, instead of tossing our electronics, there are several better options. Some require almost no effort while others are a tad more time-consuming. However, in the end, we can feel better about our decision to help the environment as well as feel more secure about not exposing our sensitive information.

Give Them Back  

Many electronic manufacturers will take back our old electronics when we buy their updated versions. Some companies may even give a discount on the new device for handing over the old one.

Drop Them Off  

Recycling companies typically have electronic drop off locations. These companies recycle electronics for reuse or repurpose. Begin with your local electronics stores, such as a local cell phone company, and inquire about a recycling program. Some stores have special recycling events while others do this on a permanent basis.

Donate 

What we think is outdated may not be to someone who doesn’t have the means for the latest tech gadgets. Local charities will gladly take our outdated devices and give them to someone who can’t afford brand new electronics. As a bonus, this gesture may also be tax deductible. A local library may also take outdated gadgets. Many of them will be grateful to have them since they don’t have the budget for brand new electronics.

Before Giving Them Back, Dropping Them Off or Donating Them 

Before conscientiously disposing of an outdated electronic, however, make sure it has been wiped clean of all personal information.

Removing Personal Information 

Our mobile devices typically hold sensitive information, like addresses and phone numbers, passwords, account numbers, email, voicemail and text message logs. Consequently, we must take steps to ensure this information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands when we get rid of our old device.

Start by trying to use the factory reset. Many devices will allow you to “wipe” a device and clear nearly all of the information stored in its memory. This is often called a “hard reset” or a “factory reset.” In most cases, the information on the old device can be transferred to the new device before wiping it clean. Read the owner’s manual or check with the mobile provider or the device manufacturer for detailed instructions.

In addition, make sure to remove or erase the SIM and SD cards. Many mobile devices store information on a SIM card or an external SD card as well as the device’s internal memory.

Double Checking

Once the personal information from the old device has been deleted, double-check to make sure it’s gone. Check the phone book, logs for both dialed and received calls, voicemails, sent and received emails and text messages, downloads and other folders, search histories and personal photos. In addition, if you stored any apps on the device, remove them and the data associated with them.

Once the mobile device is “clean,” it’s up to us to do the right thing by disposing of it properly…using one of the environmentally friendly options listed above. E-waste isn’t always easy or convenient to recycle but our planet is worth it!

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