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Bellingham Library Hosts Panel Discussion on Selecting a Financial Team

Apr 27, 2018 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Clinton A. McHoul and Julie St. Pierre of Middlesex Bank

story & photo by Sandra Cote, Contributing Writer

On April 3, 2018, at the Bellingham Library, representatives from a number of local banks and financial institutions presented a panel discussion on Selecting Your Financial Team.  By “team” these representatives were suggesting that there is more to know about handling our finances than many of us thought.

Kim Briggs, Relationship Branch Manager with UniBank, explained that there are several types of accounts available to the public and stressed how important it is to know what kind of account you’re looking for—such as savings, Christmas club, a mortgage or equity loan, or checking--and how supportive it is to find a financial person who will understand that discussions about money are a very personal experience.

Julie St. Pierre, Community Banking Officer/Branch Manager, Middlesex Savings Bank, stressed the importance of relationship building in putting their customers first.  Smaller banks, she explained, are owned by the members of that bank, therefore able to allow better rates on lending, fees and CDs.  She noted that all of your financial needs can be serviced by her bank, adding that the personal touch includes generating accounts that are tailored to best serve the needs of their customers.  She also mentioned that Middlesex Savings Bank gives back to the communities where their branches are located by inviting charitable foundations and non-profits to apply for grants in those communities.

Next on the agenda:  debit and credit cards.  Terry Lorance, Relationship Banking Supervisor at UniBank, raised several good points about having a debit card: they are accepted almost anywhere, most have rewards programs, money is taken directly out of your account, and you have your own unique PIN (personal identification number), to name a few.   He suggested calling your bank when you are going to be traveling and using your card, so that banks will not cancel your card because something out of the ordinary shows up, such as a purchase for dinner in Florida when you live in Massachusetts.  Banks can also tell you if certain countries are at risk of identity theft.  He further noted that when shopping for debit cards, you should ask about possible perks for students, possible rebates associated with the debit card and what the rate, if any, may be for using foreign ATMs.

Catrina M. Lopes, Marketing & Sales Coordinator from Charles River Bank, explained how most credit cards are “processed” through either Visa or MasterCard and purchases usually show up the following day.  She said that some benefits include the following: most credit cards are being accepted world-wide, they can have a revolving line-of-credit attached to them, fraud protection is available for purchase, and credit cards are good for both small and large purchases.  Also, free travel insurance may be available, along with car rental insurance.

Lopes strongly suggested reading the “fine print” on any and all applications for credit cards and  comparing rates with 2 or 3 card companies for charges, cash advances and the method by which a company computes your balance.  Another important point is to make sure you have an understanding of what fees are to be expected with the credit card you sign up for--for example, annual, late, over limit, transfer, cash advance, credit-limit increase and foreign transaction fees.  Another suggestion was to ask about any rewards that they might offer, such as travel, gift cards, cash rebates or goods and services.  Lopes also noted that closing a credit card account may affect your credit score, so ask about that.

Mr. John P. Orthman, MBA, an Investment Advisor Representative, Sales Director, with the Moody Street Group, with almost 30 years of experience, explained “How to Choose a Financial Planner.” He suggested meeting with 2 or 3 planners to determine the best “fit” when it comes to hiring a financial planner.  Communication is key, and an experienced planner can help you articulate your goals, priorities and objectives pertaining to family work, home and charities.  A qualified planner should understand that planning for either long- or short- term goals is a “personal” thing and that a prospective investor should ask lots of questions, such as how the financial planner gets paid, what type of license they have, what their philosophy about money is and whether they are available to speak with you anytime about your accounts.

Mr. Clinton A. McHoul, Vice President, Director of Financial Services with Charles River Bank, was also part of this discussion.  He offered that a good financial planner should coordinate all aspects of life for their clients and be open to consulting with mortgage lenders, tax professionals and estate planning attorneys.  In this way, the planner can advise the client with the best-informed course of action to take in all decisions to be made about the client’s finances.

Both Mr. Orthman and Mr. McHoul agreed that a financial planner is there to protect clients from tax/inflation erosion.

Get to know, like and trust your financial planner by meeting different people and making the best choice for you and your family.

This informative panel discussion concluded with a brief question-and-answer period.





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