Financial Planning in a Pandemic
August 31, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to put plans on hold, such as buying a house, taking a trip, or hosting a wedding. But not everything can wait, especially when it comes to planning for your future financial security. By paying attention today—even during these extraordinary times—you may be able to take steps that can lead to stronger financial security tomorrow.
Financial planning is important to everyone, including people whose financial circumstances have been adversely affected by the pandemic. When money is limited, a professional can help you decide how to spend it wisely. Professionals can assist people who are employed as well. A financial specialist can suggest ways to make your money work harder. If you are retired, you may also want to review your financial assets with an adviser. The plan that was right for you a few years ago might now need a few tweaks. A financial consultant can help you work out a plan for both today and tomorrow.
Fortunately, you can get meaningful financial advice located on the premises of Ridgewood Savings Bank. Like the Bank, Ridgewood Financial Services (RFS) is a resource for community members. A complimentary financial review can be yours for the asking.
“Even in challenging times such as these Ridgewood has the ability to assist you in managing your money, no matter what your current financial situation is,” says James R. Jewett, Jr., First Vice President and Chief Investment Officer at Ridgewood Savings Bank. “Ridgewood is here for you.”
What to do now
If you are presently unemployed, you may think you don’t need to worry about financial or retirement planning now. However, Jewett thinks you may be missing out on an opportunity to safeguard the money that you do have, particularly in your 401(k) plan.
“If you’ve been saving for retirement using your 401(k) at work, you may want to consider rolling it over into a safer financial product,” he says “There are a number of financial products that can help protect that money for you and your family.”
If you have continued to work during the pandemic, you may find you have more money at the end of the month. That’s because you aren’t spending money on things you might otherwise do, such as going to the movies or taking your children to an amusement park. If you’re working from home, you’re saving on transportation costs, too. Jewett suggests that savers should consider doing something with that extra cash.
“You should keep an emergency fund in your savings account to cover your expenses for at least six months if something should happen, but beyond that, you may want to make your money work a little harder,” he explains. “We can assist you in finding a financial product that may pay a better return and protects your principal. It keeps your money safe.”
If you are retired and have not reviewed your financial plan in a while, RFS consultants can help you assess how the current environment may be affecting your financial circumstances. You may want to move a piece of your nest egg to a safer investment or look into products that deliver guaranteed income for life.
Investment and insurance products and services are offered through INFINEX INVESTMENTS, INC. Member FINRA/SIPC. Ridgewood Financial Services Corporation is a subsidiary of Ridgewood Savings Bank. INFINEX is not affiliated with either entity. Check the background of this firm and our INFINEX Financial Advisors on FINRA’s BrokerCheck. Products and services made available through Infinex are: NOT A DEPOSIT NOT GUARANTEED BY THE BANK NOT INSURED BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY NOT FDIC INSURED MAY GO DOWN IN VALUE
What You Need to Know About Your Stimulus Check
May 6, 2020
More than 150 million households are eligible to receive a stimulus check from the Internal Revenue Service as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Economic Impact Payments (EIP), the program’s official name, bring welcome financial relief to Americans affected by the country’s COVID-19-related economic slowdown.
But many people have questions about how the EIP program will affect them personally. Here are two key things to know about who is eligible for a stimulus check and when it’s likely to be received. If the IRS already has your bank routing and account number and if you are eligible, the IRS will likely deposit your stimulus check directly into that account if it hasn’t deposited it already.
For more detailed information, please consult your tax advisor.
Eligibility is based on your tax filing status and the adjusted gross income (AGI) you reported on the most recent 1040 you filed. AGI is generally the income you reported minus the deductions you took. Here is information gathered from the IRS website:
A few other things to note:
- Payout increases by $500 for qualifying children aged 16 and under.
- Payouts are available to people who do not file taxes, including Social Security recipients, SSI or VA beneficiaries, or individuals and households with income below $12,200 and $24,400 respectively.
The IRS said that almost 90 million payouts were made by April 17th, the latest data available. The IRS sent the first payments to people would had previously sent the IRS their bank routing and account numbers (i.e., for direct deposit refunds). If the IRS cannot directly deposit the payment into a bank account, it will send a paper check. People who did not file taxes in 2018 and will not file taxes in 2019 can indicate where the IRS should send the payment by clicking here on the IRS website. If you are eligible for an EIP and haven’t received it, the IRS website also allows you check its status by clicking here.
There’s one more thing to know: the EIP is tax free! It does not have to be claimed as income for tax year 2020.
Eager to find out if the IRS has deposited your stimulus check in your Ridgewood account? Use our Mobile App to look up your checking account balance whenever you want, wherever you go. Plus, you can immediately pay bills or deposit some of the money into your savings account.
To learn more about the Economic Impact Program and how to route payment to your Ridgewood Savings Account, please click here.
The information above was obtained from the IRS and third-party sources and does not constitute legal or tax advice from Ridgewood Savings Bank. Please consult your tax advisor.
November 14, 2019
RIDGEWOOD, N.Y. -- Ridgewood Savings Bank now offers customers the convenience of voice banking with Amazon Alexa. Whether you are shopping online or involved in a task, you can have instant access to your bank account information.
Voice banking streamlines the way you access your financial information in real time. It’s simple to get started. Download the Ridgewood Bank Alexa “skill” app and link your online account information today.
Voice banking with Alexa is just one of the ways that Ridgewood continues to grow our suite of products and services that will make your life easier. In addition to Voice Banking, we offer Telephone Access Voice Banking, On-Line, and Mobile Banking - featuring our highly-rated mobile app, and for those that prefer the personal touch, interactive Call Center with Chat.
Want to set up Alexa Voice Banking today? Click here.
To find out how easy it is to start using this new service, view our “how-to video”.
Amazon, Alexa, and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
October 30, 2019
RIDGEWOOD, N.Y. -- Eager to buy that Galaxy Note10 smartphone? Or book a luxurious $700/night villa for a week with friends? Ridgewood Savings Bank can help make it easier—and faster— to earn a favorable return on your savings and help these dream purchases come true. Even if you just want to save money for a rainy day, you should make your next move a Smart Move, with a Ridgewood Smart Move Online Savings. It takes just minutes to open an account, and the account can be opened from wherever you are**. Whether you choose a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, setting up your account is a cinch.
*0.80% APY (annual percentage yield) applies to accounts with balances between $.01 to $249,999.99. For accounts with balances of $250,000.00 or more, the APY is 0.30%. Rates are effective as of 09/14/2020. Fees charged may reduce your earnings. APYs and terms are subject to change without notice. **Must be a resident of New York State or Fairfield County Connecticut to apply for the Smart Move online account.
October 2, 2019
RIDGEWOOD, N.Y. -- People like having a credit card to make purchases, shop online, and avoid carrying a large amount of cash. But not all credit cards are the same. Now Ridgewood Savings Bank is offering customers a better card—and it’s from a bank they already trust.
Ridgewood is introducing three new credit cards: Ridgewood Platinum Rewards Mastercard®, Ridgewood Platinum Mastercard® and World Mastercard®. Whether someone is looking for a low-interest-rate credit card or wants to earn rewards, Ridgewood has the right credit card for you. What’s more, the credit cards come with special introductory offers that are sure to attract resourceful consumers.
The Platinum Rewards Mastercard® allows cardholders to earn flexible rewards points, which can be redeemed for cash back, travel or popular gift cards.
The Platinum Mastercard® is perfect for individuals who carry a balance on their credit cards and want to explore lowering their interest rates.
The World Mastercard® offers cardholders a chance to earn more rewards points on travel, dining and gas purchases.
“Ridgewood is introducing three new credit cards that offer some of the best rates and features in the industry,” explains Leonard Stekol, Chairman, President and CEO of Ridgewood Savings Bank. “If you have a large balance on your credit cards, the Platinum Mastercard® allows you to consolidate your credit card debt on one card. If you usually pay all or most of your credit card bill every month, then the Platinum Rewards Mastercard® is a great way to earn cash back or other rewards on your purchases. If you travel and dine out frequently, World Mastercard can help you earn more rewards points.”
Mr. Stekol adds, “This is just one more way that we’re increasing our services to help our customers and strengthen the community.”
To find out more about these exciting offers, please click here. All credit cards subject to credit approval.
By Refinancing Your Home at Today’s Current Low Interest Rates, You Might be Able to Reduce Mortgage Payments—Even If You Took Out the Mortgage Last Year
September 23, 2019
RIDGEWOOD, N.Y. -- To many people’s surprise, 2019 is turning out to be a great year for refinancing mortgages. Even though economists predicted that the low interest rates of 2018 wouldn’t last, interest rates have dropped further this year. As of mid-September, 30-year fixed mortgage rates were down from generally around 4.75% about a year ago to often below 4%—the lowest 30-year fixed rate mortgage interest rates have been since 2016.
So, even if you bought a house or refinanced your mortgage last year, you may have an opportunity to lower your mortgage payment further. That’s exactly what Stephen Haller of Glendale, New York, did. He bought his home in July 2018 and chose to lower his interest rate this summer.
“It was very easy,” Haller says. “My interest rate went from 4.6% to 3.8%. It made a real difference.”
Haller worked with his knowledgeable mortgage consultant at Ridgewood Savings Bank. She presented him with several options, explained each one in detail, and ran the numbers. Haller notes that throughout the process, his mortgage consultant was always ready to assist him. “She was very happy to help me and responded to all my questions and emails,” he explains. Now he is happy too. “I’m saving hundreds of dollars each month.”
While refinancing’s cover the great majority of situations in which borrowers want to change terms on their existing loans, loan modifications can be used if an eligible borrower wishes to only change the interest rate without altering any of the remaining terms of the original loan agreement—the route that Haller took. A conversation with a lending specialist is always beneficial before making a decision as to whether to refinance or modify your mortgage.
You might be able to lower your interest rate too. Call 866-772-4111 or click here to learn more.
Minimize ID Theft & Fraud by Taking These Simple Actions
August 9, 2019
RIDGEWOOD, N.Y. -- After recently hearing about how nearly 100 million Americans and 6 million Canadians were exposed in a massive hack involving a major financial institution, consumers everywhere are sure to be asking: “How can I protect myself?”
Ridgewood Savings Bank customers can be assured that we employ some of the most sophisticated protections available – and are constantly assessing our security protocols, procedures, and protections to help protect your personal information, emails, credit cards, and social security numbers from would-be cyber crooks.
“Hackers are always on the hunt for vulnerabilities – both on an institutional and individual level,” says Leonard Stekol, CEO of Ridgewood Savings Bank. “Therefore, the Bank is continuously evaluating and updating its security posture to protect customer’s information. In addition, we offer a number of services to ensure they have the strongest protections available in the fight against cyber crimes.”
For a nominal $4.99 monthly fee, Ridgewood offers its checking account customers EZShield Identity Theft Protection, a sophisticated platform that delivers prompt restoration assistance to fraud victims. In partnering with an industry leader like EZShield, we provide a vital layer that minimizes the risk of identity theft, fraud and stolen personal information.
This service also includes 24/7 live support with a US-based Certified Resolution Specialist to restore identity through a 32-step restoration process as well as ID restoration; dark web and credit monitoring; and identity theft insurance with up to $1 million reimbursed for identity theft-related expenses, including lost wages incurred during the time period a customer is protected by EZShield.
But there are also ways that you can minimize the risk:
- Sign up for text and email alerts. Alerts are a great way to stay informed. Our alerts won’t include a link, and will only come from a 5-digit number. A valid notification will ask a cardholder to reply with a message such as “Yes”, “No” “Help” or “Stop.” You won’t be asked to log into your account.
- A phone call from our institution will only include a request for your zip code. We will NEVER ask for your PIN or the 3-digit security code on your card. If someone asks for that information, it’s a fraud. Hang up and call us directly.
- Regularly check your account online to see if there has been any suspicious activity. If something looks amiss, call us directly.
If you receive a voice-or a text-message from us and are unsure about responding, call us directly at (718) 240-4778 for assistance.
“Customer service is central to all that we do at Ridgewood,” Stekol says. “We marry modern technologies with traditional services. Together, we can put forth meaningful defenses against hackers and cyber-criminals and protect our customers.”
Terms and conditions subject to change. Member FDIC
First Lesson: Open a Student Advantage Account with Ridgewood Savings Bank Today.
With college students returning to campus, now’s the time to provide them with the tools to manage their spending money, and help them establish a full relationship with a bank.
Ridgewood Savings Bank designed its Student Advantage Account with the needs of today’s student in mind. There’s no monthly service fee for student advantage account holders, all the benefits of a debit card, access to 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs, and even one “oops” fee reversal per year for checking overdrafts.
Additionally, the bank waives up to 8 out-of-network ATM fees each month. While saving money and attending college are two terms that typically contradict each other, the Bank offers various fee-saving options to assist college students in achieving their financial goals as they mature and gain further independence.
The Student Advantage Account also comes with free online and mobile banking. Students can quickly check their balances, deposit checks, and set up real-time notifications of transactions. These features make it easy for busy students to stay on top of their spending.
Ridgewood offers one feature at no cost on all of its checking accounts that it hopes students never have to use: ID theft on-call resolution. For a modest $4.99 monthly fee, extra protection can be obtained in the form of ID restoration, daily credit monitoring, and other related identity theft and credit protection services.
A Student Advantage Account can be opened with as little as $25 and there is no charge for the first 80 checks ordered. Students that prefer to pay bills online can easily do so by signing up for our online banking services, or that wish to earn rewards can do so by using their debit card to purchase items. Best of all, parents have the ability to deposit money directly into the account as needed.
“Our Student Advantage Account is a great way to help students manage their money,” says Carlos Sanchez, Ridgewood’s Chief Banking Officer. “College students can see where their money goes, set budgets, and begin to spend and save responsibly. It’s really like Money Management 101. The account provides a young person with a true sense of independence, and offers important lessons that can last a lifetime.”
Terms and conditions subject to change.
June 13, 2019
The current expansion of the U.S. economy has lasted nearly 10 years, more than double the average duration of the eight most recent periods of expansion since World War II. In a recent survey of business economists, nearly half believe a recessionary period could start in the U.S. by the end of next year1. Are you prepared for what might happen if times get tough?
What occurs during a recession?
People and businesses buy fewer goods and services during a recession, so the economy shrinks and there’s less money to go around. The stock markets typically decline; housing prices often sag, and companies may lay off employees. If you or someone in your family loses a job, it may take time to find another one. Meantime, your savings may dwindle while your credit-card debt ticks upward.
“Recessions can be hard to predict and difficult to navigate, however, you can take steps now to protect your financial health during any potential downturn in the economy,” says Leonard Stekol, Chairman, President, and CEO of Ridgewood Savings Bank. “At Ridgewood, we have many tools to help our customers weather the storm.”
Four ways to protect your financial well-being
1. Save, save, save. Then, save some more!
There’s no better time to save for a rainy day then while the sun is shining. So, if you are not saving money every month, this is the time to start. You might be surprised how fast savings grow when you consistently set aside a percentage of your pay. You can start small and add as you go.
The rule of thumb is to save enough money to cover expenses for three to six months if you lose your income. Take advantage of Ridgewood’s free Money Management (MX) program, available to all Ridgewood Mobile Banking and Online Banking users, to track spending and create a budget. MX has spending tracking and smart budget creation tools that automatically create a budget based on your spending history. Once you fully appreciate and understand where your money goes each month, you can spot potential places where you can trim expenses and save more.
Also, consider establishing and adhering to a savings schedule, by arranging for automatic weekly, biweekly, or monthly withdrawals from your Ridgewood Checking Account into one of our many savings options (i.e. vacation and holiday club savings accounts, money market or CDs that permit periodic deposits to be made prior to maturity). We have many competitive deposit offerings and are happy to work with you to find the best method to grow your savings based upon your personal needs.
Why do we do it?
2. Reduce your debt as much as possible.
Nothing strains a budget more than paying off debt, especially high-interest loans like credit-card debt. To avoid a financial squeeze in the future, consider paying off as much debt as you can now. Use Money Management (MX) to assist in tracking your debt and assessing how long a repayment plan would take to help you become debt-free. Given the choice of saving or eliminating credit card debt, the latter is usually more beneficial.
For many people, their biggest debt obligation is their home mortgage loans. Recessionary periods often lead to lower interest rates, as the government seeks to encourage business to invest. Consider whether you might benefit by refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate or consolidating your debt through a home equity line of credit. Reach out to our lending team, and we will happily review all options for you.
3. Make your money work as hard as possible.
You want your savings to be safe and to earn as much interest as possible. As a mutual savings bank that does not need to constantly meet the earnings expectations of stockholders, Ridgewood is able to offer great rates, fewer fees, and more flexibility than you’ll find at most banks. We invite you to discover the multiple ways you can save with us by visiting us in person at one of our 35 branches in Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester, or online.
4. Make yourself more employable.
Now is a good time to hone your skills with additional training. Earning a certification in your field can help to make you more valuable to your current employer (potentially providing more job security) or potential future employers should you seek alternative employment opportunities. Certifications in employment fields such as healthcare or education that are more stable during tough times may be particularly beneficial. In addition, start and continue networking. If a recession comes and you lose your job, you won’t be the only one unemployed. Personal connections may help you learn of a job before it is formally advertised, or assist you in promoting your resume to a potential employer.
In this Age of Growing Identity Theft and Fraud, Service Provides 24/7 ID restoration for all checking customers
June 1, 2019
You hear it all of the time: A friend, neighbor or family member loses their credit card information, social security number or identity to a cyber-thief.
The result can be hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket cleanup costs, not to mention untold stress and countless hour’s aggravation.
Sadly, the scenario has become all too common, as identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. In fact, 79.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft and fraud in 2017, which on average, costs them $290 in out-of-pocket costs to resolve.
It’s not fair to innocent victims, and it can be a serious nuisance to fix.
We get it. That’s why Ridgewood Savings Bank, the largest mutual savings bank in New York State, is offering our checking customers EZShield Identity Theft ProtectionÒ – the sophisticated platform that delivers prompt restoration assistance to fraud victims.
“By offering this service to our customers, we are providing a critical added layer of security that will help save them time, money, and endless frustration,” notes Leonard Stekol, Ridgewood Savings Bank President, CEO, and Chairman. “So, you should consider this community bank as your ally in minimizing customer risk of identity theft, fraud, and lost or stolen personal information.”
Through our partnership with industry leader EZShield, Ridgewood Savings Bank provides all of our checking customers with free access to EZShield ID Restoration which includes 24/7 live support with a US-based Certified Resolution Specialist to restore identity through a 32-step restoration process.
Ridgewood’s Premier Checking customers also receive free access to EZShield ID Protection Plus—a powerful suite of protection services, which include:
- ID restoration;
- Dark web monitoring (daily monitoring of customer personal information on black market websites)
- Credit monitoring (daily scans that monitor for changes and activity on customer credit reports)
- And identity theft insurance with up to $1 million reimbursed for identity theft-related expenses, including lost wages incurred during the time period a customer is protected by EZShield.
Why do we do it?
It’s part of Ridgewood’s value proposition for a diverse base of customers, which include senior citizens, working millennials, growing families and successful business owners.
“Ridgewood Savings Bank truly understands the stress that identity theft and fraud create for our customers,” Mr. Stekol says. “While everyone’s financial needs may vary, they share a common desire for protection, security, and peace of mind. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on.”
EZShield ID Protection Plus is also available to other Ridgewood checking customers, non-checking customers, and business customers for a fraction of the retail price of these services if purchased by a consumer independently.
Putting the Community in Community Banking
February 10, 2019
Walk into any of Ridgewood Savings Bank’s 35 branches across New York City’s five boroughs, Long Island or Westchester, and you’ll be sure to be met by one of our friendly community bankers. Chances are, the person greeting you might even be a neighbor or active at a local civic association, as many of our bankers live in the communities they serve.
Community banks are vital to Main Streets, downtowns, small businesses, and families all across the United States. And Ridgewood Savings Bank, the largest mutual savings bank in New York State, remains a pillar in the communities we serve. Why? We rely on relationships.
We use our core deposits to fund loans for mortgages, small businesses and housing development. In fact, you can literally see where we are putting our money. In 2017, the Bank financed over $200 million in multi-family housing in moderate and low-income neighborhoods and invested another $7.5 million to build or rehabilitate affordable housing for New Yorkers.
Community banks like Ridgewood see things differently than the so-called “Big Box Banks.” We invest in our neighborhoods and offer competitive rates, and new products and services. We care about helping folks to finance their dream of homeownership. Leonard Stekol, chairman, president & CEO, calls it “Ridgewood’s Value Proposition.”
Part of that Value Proposition translates into competitive deposit offering rates, friendly terms on our loans, lower fees, and better service.
Traditional phrases such as “You can bank on it,” or “Take it to the bank” implied banks were viewed first and foremost as havens of stability and trustworthiness in the community. Due to the rising prominence of e-commerce, today’s customers are most readily enticed by convenience. Our values and business model remind members of our community that we will always be there for them, and will constantly seek to earn and keep their trust.
However, we certainly don’t ignore the critical importance of convenience as we continue to enhance our highly rated mobile and internet banking applications and offer customers access to over 55,000 surcharge-free ATM’s.
But even those numbers don’t tell the entire story:
Ridgewood Savings Bank employees dedicated 2,788 volunteer hours – including 845 hours at local soup kitchens – and contributed $57,000 in charitable donations to local community organizations. We contributed $577,000 in corporate giving and charitable donations and dedicated $140,600 in community reinvestment.
As bankers, we know that numbers tell a story. At Ridgewood Savings Bank, they also describe how we feel about the communities we serve.