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It's that time of year — the time to ring out the old and ring in the new, to ditch bad habits and replace them with good ones. We can't guarantee you'll lose weight, or become a better human being, but we can give you some suggestions to help you whip your finances into shape. Here are some tips for the New Year.

  1. Save and invest. Don't underestimate your ability to save and invest. With compound interest, even modest investments now can grow over time.
  2. Lighten your credit load. Paying off high-interest debt may be your best investment strategy. Few investments pay off as well, or with less risk than, eliminating high-interest debt on credit cards or other loans.
  3. Boost your "rainy-day" fund. Many experts recommend keeping about six months of expenses in a federally insured account to cover sudden unemployment or other emergencies.
  4. "Sure thing" is fine as an expression but not as an investment pitch. Promises of guaranteed high returns, with little or no risk, are a classic warning sign of fraud. The potential for greater returns typically comes with greater risk. You know the saying—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  5. Take charge of your money. If you don't know where it goes, start keeping track. There are plenty of tools to help you set a monthly budget and stick to it.
  6. Pay yourself first. Put yourself at the top of your "payee" list. Regular automatic deductions from your paycheck or bank account into a savings or investment account will keep you on track toward your short and long-term financial goals.
  7. Know your investment self. You're the best judge of yourself. Use that knowledge to find investments that are a good match for you, based on your goals and your ability to tolerate risks.
  8. Make sure your older investments still fit you. Take time to review your holdings and see if they're still appropriate for you. If you've outgrown them, it's probably time to sell them and buy something better suited to you.
  9. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. One way to reduce the risks of investing is to diversify your investment holdings. Think twice before investing heavily in shares of your employer's stock or any single investment.
  10. Ignorance isn't always bliss, especially when it comes to your account statements. Sure, it can hurt to look at statements when investments are losing value. But if you don't review your statements, you may miss problems in your accounts that are unrelated to performance.
  11. Do your homework. Asking questions about financial opportunities and checking out the answers with unbiased sources can help you make informed choices and avoid fraud.

For more information, call or stop by your local First National Bank branch.

First National Bank is proud to announce the winners of its eleventh annual Customer Photo Calendar Contest. Fourteen color photographs have been chosen from over 225 entries, and each winning photographer will be awarded a $150 cash prize. The images will appear in the Bank’s 2019 desk calendar and wall calendar, which will be available to customers in all offices of First National Bank by mid-November.    

The winning entrants are: Cover – Denise Innes of Nobleboro; January – Sean Carnell of Camden; February – Don Dunbar of Perry; March – Kate Norton of Boothbay; April – Eric Strasenburgh of Blue Hill; May – Erin Jordan of Ellsworth; June – Shiloh Eaton of Sedgewick; July – Matthew Sutton of Camden; August – Charlie St. Clair of South Thomaston; September – Ronald Molnar of Surry; October – Bart Mank of Hope; November – Rifat Zaidi of Newcastle; December – Mariah Morneault of Bangor; wall calendar image – Amy Shepard of Frederick, MD.    

First National Bank began asking its customers in January to submit their very best original, scenic Maine shots. All customers of First National Bank -- professionals and amateurs, employees and their family members -- were encouraged to enter the contest. To continue First National Bank’s tradition of being genuine Maine community bank, the custom calendars are being designed by Elm Street Marketing Essentials in Camden.  

“Every year we are amazed by the spectacular photographs taken by our customers,” said Susan Norton, Executive Vice President. “Producing a custom photo desk calendar that highlights our customers’ talents and the natural beauty of our state is such a win-win situation. We look forward to sharing the 2019 desk calendar this fall.”

Get a sneak peek of the winning entries on our Facebook page. 

With the 2018 tax filing season kicking off this week, the IRS today issued a warning about an emergent identity theft tax scam that targets tax preparers’ computers and, in some cases, involves depositing funds in victims’ bank accounts. The agency warned that cybercriminals are sending phishing emails to tax preparers that contain malware allowing them to make off with sensitive tax filer data. The fraudsters then use that information to file for fraudulent tax returns.

“In a new twist, the fraudulent returns in a few cases used the taxpayers’ real bank accounts for the deposit,” the IRS said. “A woman posing as a debt collection agency official then contacted the taxpayers to say a refund was deposited in error and asked the taxpayers to forward the money to her.” The novel approach comes as fraudsters continue modifying their efforts to steal tax refunds.

The IRS advised taxpayers who receive a direct deposit refund that they did not request to ask their bank to return the direct deposit to the IRS and to call the IRS to explain why it is being returned. “Keep in mind interest may accrue on the erroneous refund,” the agency added.

According to the FBI, reports of online romance scams have tripled over the last five years, with more than $220 million lost in 2016. Online romance scams typically involve a fraudster creating a fake profile to lure in victims, establishing a romantic relationship and eventually extorting money from their victims, which frequently include older Americans. Check out this infographic put together by American Bankers Association for tips on spotting these types of scams and how to avoid them. 
In light of the recent Equifax data breach involving over 143 million Americans, here are some helpful links to protect your information.

Freeze your credit report. In the state of Maine this action is free to consumers. This is the best way to prevent identity thieves from obtaining credit in your name. Visit http://www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit/file_freeze_info.htm (Opens in a new Window) - there are links and phone numbers for the three major credit bureaus on this site along with information about obtaining your free credit report and other important information. There will be a lot of scams related to this Equifax breach, so use this State of Maine site to get accurate information about credit reporting rather than clicking on links in emails or Facebook news stories.

The fourth major credit bureau, Innovis is not listed. This link will take you to their site, where credit freeze information is available: https://www.innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze (Opens in a new Window)

Whether you are on the list or not, this action will help protect you.