How to get your finances into shape

How to get your finances into shape

By Lisa Scontras

The new year is traditionally a time when we make plans and start anew with commitments to make positive adjustments to our lives — quit smoking, exercise more and get our finances into shape.

Maybe you packed on a few extra pounds over the holidays — no problem, you can hit the gym. Likewise, if you overspent this year, an appointment with a financial expert who can help you reshape your finances is just the right medicine.

If your financial goals for 2016 include buying a home, paying off debt or saving money for a college fund, now is the time to make those dreams a reality. Too often, the new year brings a stack of credit card bills from all your holiday shopping, so what better time to sit down and map out a sound financial plan?

"Meet with a personal banker at First Hawaiian Bank to discuss your financial situation and what you want to achieve this year," says Derek Wong, Vice President of Credit Products at First Hawaiian Bank.

One of the most common New Year's resolutions is to buy a home. Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows for so long, we have nearly forgotten the impact they have on affordability. Don't forget, when rates do eventually go up, the cost of buying a home will too. Timing is everything. If you have wanted to buy a home and for whatever reason you are still renting, take heart … it isn't too late.

A personal banker at First Hawaiian Bank can help you to review your finances, address any credit issues, calculate the maximum purchase price you can afford and identify the funds you'll need for your down payment so you can start shopping for your home with confidence. You'll see that with a plan, your dream of homeownership is within reach.

If you already own a home, your goal in 2016 might be to eliminate unnecessary bills and lower your debt — credit cards, student loans and car payments can pile up. First Hawaiian Bank is standing by to help homeowners consolidate debt with a variety of home-equity products.

"Getting your finances in order through bill consolidation is a great resolution because it will simply save you money," says Wong. "Give your debt-payoff plan a kick start by paying off all your other loans and credit card balances, while lowering your interest rate."

"Our Equity FirstLines are convenient and flexible enough to use for large purchases, to consolidate high-interest bills or help pay for tuition and school expenses," says Wong. "Because the line is secured, interest rates are typically lower. In addition, interest paid on the HELOC may be tax deductible, whereas interest on personal unsecured loans, lines and credit cards are not. This may provide additional savings."

If you do not own a home or have sufficient equity in your home, a personal loan also can be used to consolidate other high-interest credit card bills and debt into a fixed-rate loan with manageable monthly payments, according to Wong, who agrees that 2016 is still a good year to take advantage of the low rates.

"Interest rates may rise, so the sooner you can start paying off unwanted high-interest debt, the sooner you may see the benefits and realize the savings," Wong says.

“Sometimes just getting started is the toughest step to becoming financially fit,” says Wong. “Talking with a knowledgeable personal banker can help alleviate your stress by assisting you in selecting the best financial product to fit your needs and provide the most manageable monthly payments. If getting your finances in shape is at the top of your list in 2016, visit any First Hawaiian Bank branch and speak to a personal banker today.”

©2016 First Hawaiian Bank. Originally published in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser.