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Submitted by First Fed

As the New Year begins, it brings with it the perfect opportunity for renewal, reflection, and reevaluation — especially when it comes to your financial health. The fresh start of a new year is a great time to assess your monetary landscape, set new goals, and pave the way for a year of improved financial well-being. Scheduling a financial check-up with your local banker is an easy first step toward optimizing your finances and ensuring your financial plans are on track.

“Sometimes people don’t realize there are a lot of options beyond a basic checking and savings account,” notes Julie Ranson, District Manager at First Fed’s Fairhaven branch in Bellingham. “We can look at your individual circumstances and recommend products or accounts that can improve your financial landscape and maximize your savings.”

Because bankers have a deep knowledge of the different types of financial accounts, they are an excellent resource to talk to about your finances. They can help you discover the best ways to save money on fees, optimize savings, and make sure you have the right accounts for your goals.

Some of the options that your local banker can review with you include:

FDIC Insurance Coverage

Understanding the extent of FDIC insurance coverage on your accounts is crucial for protecting your deposits. Your banker can review the accounts to ensure your funds are within the insured limits. If you have accounts with balances higher than the $250,000 insured by the FDIC, your banker can discuss deposit options like ICS and CDARS, which give you extended insurance coverage and provide peace of mind against potential risks.

High-Yield Savings Accounts and CDs

Is your savings account earning money? High-yield savings accounts and Certificates of Deposit (CDs) often earn higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts, allowing your savings to grow more rapidly over time. During your financial check-up, exploring high-yield savings accounts with your banker can provide insights into the current interest rate climate and identify opportunities to maximize your savings.

Credit Builder Loan

Your credit score is an important factor if you are looking to rent an apartment, make a major purchase, or take out a loan. If your score could use a boost, a Credit Builder Loan may be a helpful tool in strengthening your credit. These small loans are held in a certificate of deposit (CD) account while you make monthly payments. Consistent, on-time payments can improve your credit rating because loan payments are reported to credit bureaus. When your loan is paid off you receive the amount of the loan plus the interest earned while held in the CD.

Overdraft Lines of Credit

Overdrafts can be a financial pitfall if not managed properly, but your banker can suggest ways to help minimize overdraft fees. Utilizing an overdraft line of credit may help to avoid high fees and maintain financial stability during unforeseen expenses.

Sage Line of Credit

Whether you are considering a major purchase, need cash access, or would like to consolidate debt, a personal line of credit can provide flexible and easy access to funds. Depending on your credit score, these lines of credit may offer a lower rate than your credit cards.

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC)

For homeowners, a HELOC can serve as a valuable financial tool. It allows access to funds based on the equity built in your home, which can be utilized for various purposes like home renovations, education expenses, or debt consolidation. Discussing HELOC options during your check-up can shed light on interest rates, repayment terms, and how leveraging this line of credit might align with your financial objectives. Home equity loans are also an option to consider.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

For those with high-deductible health plans, HSAs offer a tax-advantaged way to save for medical expenses. During the check-up, your banker can help you understand the benefits of an HSA, discuss contribution limits, and explore opportunities within the account.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

Planning for retirement is a vital component of financial security. IRAs offer tax advantages and opportunities to earn interest to grow your nest egg. Your banker can review your existing IRA or help you establish one if you haven’t already. They can also advise on contribution limits and explore options like an IRA Certificate of Deposit (CD) to help maximize your retirement savings.

Getting the Most from Your Financial Check-Up

A financial check-up with your local banker isn’t only about reviewing accounts; it’s an opportunity to ask questions, seek advice, and strategize for a more secure financial future. Here are steps to make the most of your check-up:

  • Prepare Ahead: Gather information about your accounts, financial goals, and any concerns or questions you have.
  • Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to inquire about account features, fees, interest rates, or any financial products you’re unfamiliar with.
  • Discuss Goals: Share your short-term and long-term financial goals. Your banker can tailor suggestions to align with your plans for major purchases, investments, and life changes.
  • Review Recommendations: Assess the advice given by your banker and consider how it fits into your overall financial plan.

Your relationship with your local banker can be a significant asset in navigating the complexities of personal finance. Regular check-ups can help you adapt to life’s inevitable changes and ensure that you stay on track towards your financial goals.

Branch Manager Jami Peterson (middle) with the First Fed team at the Bellingham Barkley branch.

“Our team is here to be a resource for our customers and community,” assures Jami Peterson, Branch Manager of First Fed’s Bellingham Barkley location. “We recommend that everyone review their accounts and financial goals at least once a year. If there are opportunities to maximize your savings or prepare for major purchases, we can help with that.”

To set up a financial check-up with a local banker at First Fed, drop by one of their local branches or call ahead to schedule an appointment.

First Fed is a member FDIC community bank and equal housing lender.

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