We are keeping a close eye on the "Heartbleed" bug you may have heard about. The vendor we use for Online Banking has completed a preliminary assessment and has not discovered any vulnerability. We will be sure to keep you updated should anything to the contrary be discovered. Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to help ensure that your information is safe.

It is always a good practice to use unique passwords for all of the online services you access. If your GCF Online Banking password has also been used with a different service, we do recommend that you change your Online Banking password at this time.

If you currently utilize GCF’s online banking EXPRESS TRANSFER function to make your loan payments, this service will be temporarily unavailable from April 25, 2014 through June 9, 2014. As an alternative to this temporary inconvenience, you can do one of the following:

  • Contact 1-877-589-6600 ext. 320 or 368 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, to manually complete the transaction.
  • Mail a check to Investors Bank, 101 Wood Avenue South, Iselin, NJ 08830.
  • Sign up for GCF’s online bill payment system and set up a monthly payment to be sent to Investors Bank.

Fast Access

GCF Bank is now part of the Investors Bank family!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Edition #670

Today's Highlights:

Past issues of GCFlash:

June 26, 2012 Edition #669

June 19, 2012 Edition #668

June 12, 2012 Edition #667

June 5, 2012 Edition #666

Weekly Spotlight:

Use our free Home Value Estimator to learn the value of your property or any other in which you hold interest. Find a link on our home page.

Our Current Rates:

For a listing of our current deposit and loan rates, click here.

Today's National Market Rates
July 3, 2012 6 Mo Ago
1 Yr Ago
5 Yrs Ago
Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Up 726.26 or 5.94% since 12/31/11)
12,943.82 (+0.56%) 12,397.38 12,569.87 13,577.30
S&P 500
(Up 116.43 or 9.26% since 12/31/11)
1,374.02 (+0.62%) 1,277.06 1,337.88 1,524.87
(Up 370.93 or 14.24% since 12/31/11)
2,976.08 (+0.84%) 2,648.72 2,825.77 2,644.95
10 Year Treasury Bond Yield 1.63% 1.96% 3.14% 5.05%
British Sterling 1.5690 1.5500 1.6084 2.0107
Euro 1.2608 1.2935 1.4534 1.3570

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1st Flash

Tax or Penalty?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's .....

If you're old enough to complete that sentence, pay heed. Those of you of the younger set better listen up, too.

The Supreme Court, in a decision even more controversial than the law itself, ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, is constitutional.

Liberals were elated, claiming victory for the incumbent administration in a pivotal election year.

Conservatives cried treason, as Chief Justice Roberts switched sides at the last moment to cast the deciding vote. Yet the wording used in his opinion may prove to bolster the cause of those opposed to this legislation.

The decision itself was confusing. But would you expect anything less from 2,200+ page of legislation that lawmakers were urged to "pass before you can know what's in it?"

At issue at the Supreme Court level was whether this Act was constitutional under the commerce clause. What is the commerce clause?

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution states that the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." In dispute is exactly what range of powers Congress has to this end. When does "regulate" become "mandate?" Is it merely their right to prevent detrimental practices or can they force individuals to do something they choose to avoid?

Roberts ruled: (italics included)

"Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress's power to 'regulate Commerce.'"

In other words, his controversial decision actually limited the power of Congress to compel citizens to do something. Expect this to be the centerpiece of judicial rulings far into the future. But...

Roberts swing vote upheld this Act as being constitutional since Congress has taxing authority. And when our elected officials took the time to unravel all 2,200+ pages, after the Act was hastily passed, it became clear that this mandate was truly a tax.

In fact, 21 new taxes are embedded in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There's something here for everyone, no matter which tax bracket you may fall. Some of the highlights include:

  • A 3.8 percent surtax on investment income earned from dividends, interest, rent, capital gains, annuities, house sales, etc. for single filers earning more than $200,000 or $250,000 for those filing joint. Taxes on dividends will rise from 15 percent to 18.8 percent if Congress extends the Bush tax cuts. If they're not extended, they'll rise from 15 percent to 43.8 percent according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • A 0.9 percent surtax on Medicare taxes for the same earners affected above. Current Medicare tax is 1.45 percent with your employer paying another 1.45 percent. Next year that rate climbs to 2.35 percent. Those self-employed pay both portions.
  • Flexible Spending Account contributions will be capped at $2,500 for all income groups. Currently, there's no limit to how much you can set aside for medical expenses on a pre-tax basis.
  • If an emergency arises and you need to use money from your Healthcare Savings Account for something other than medical costs, your penalty will be 20 percent rather than the current 10 percent. This, too, affects all of us.
  • Currently, medical expenses over 7.5 percent are deductible for those who itemize deductions on their federal income tax. Next year that level rises to 10 percent for all filers.
  • A 40 percent tax will be assessed on the cost of comprehensive healthcare plans. If your employer pays for all or most of your health insurance, expect to be taxed on the amount they pay beginning in 2018.
  • If you don't buy health insurance, you'll pay anyway. Debate ensues over whether this is a tax or a penalty. Does it really matter to you? You'll fork out anywhere between $695 to about $4,700 per person to the IRS for not buying insurance, depending on your income.

This is what riles both Democrats and Republicans alike. The cost is high, particularly with such a fragile economy. There is no such thing as a free lunch, nor free healthcare.

We won't go into the Act's provisions here. Both the benefits and detriments have been widely-publicized. But we will discuss alternatives. Tune in next week.

On The World Wide Web

The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers a host of resources for historic homeowners. Visit their website.

Dogs can be terrified of fireworks. This poster got some good tips on how to comfort a frightened furry friend.

Celebrate Independence Day with these fun facts, history, recipes and safety tips offered at this site.

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2nd Flash

2 Bedrooms, 2 Bath, 1 Ghost

The townhouse was getting crowded. So we found the perfect fixer-upper for our young, growing family.

The 200+ year-old Victorian in Glassboro was in the midst of being remodeled when a job relocation forced the family to move out of the area. What luck! My husband's expertise was home remodeling. The previous owners had already bought most of the materials. All we needed to do was figure out the jigsaw puzzle. They left no plans to follow.

It was a grueling 30-days, working every night on our project, heading there directly from our day jobs. But we had a deadline to meet. As the house was unoccupied, we needed a Certificate of Occupancy from the Borough before we could move in. And we had already sold the townhouse.

Inspection day arrived. We were ready. Structurally, at least. Everything was in place to be granted the coveted Certificate.

What we weren't ready for was the inspector's words to us. "Guess you know the history of this house?" he asked.

We intended to research its history. A house of this age was sure to hold some interesting stories. After we were moved in. Our deadline didn't allow time for such extravagance.

"Don't have to look too far. Go to the library and ask for a book called Ghosts in the Valley. There's a whole chapter on this house." he continued to tell us.

Stunned at first, I waited for him to leave before I broke down in tears. All the strange sounds and unexplained events suddenly made sense. I knew there was truth to his words. Our dream house held many nightmares.

There are a lot of good reasons to learn the history of a house. Besides ghosts.

Stories of those who lived there throughout the years add an aura to the environment. You may want to see a previous design to restore the home historically. Or you may use its history as a selling point in a tight market. George Washington spent a lot of time in the area.

So how do you go about learning the history of your house?

Start at the local municipal government office. You'll find information such as construction dates, square footage, building materials and perhaps even the architect's name.

Find out if your street name was changed over time. You won't get thrown off track if records suddenly cease at a point after its construction date.

Public libraries and historical societies may hold documents of property ownership, including tax records. Research census records, old newspapers and historic photographs.

Before the Internet, people used phone books to find someone's name, address and phone number. Before phone books there were city directories. Go back as far as you can find available resources.

The county records' office may allow you to perform a chain of title search that will allow you to track the property back to when it was first built.

Talk to the neighbors, particularly those that have lived in the area for a while. But stories and legends tend to blur over time. So use their tales as a starting point and not as fact.

The holy grail of home research is original blueprints and photographs. These may not have survived over time. But you may uncover some really neat photos in the process of searching.

Whatever history you uncover is certain to add to your home's character. Even if it doesn't include ghosts.

Tip of the Week

Planning a summer vacation? Vacation rental scams abound. If you're renting a house, do so through a licensed realtor rather than a shady website. Homes depicted there may be a ruse to get your deposit. The true owners who occupy the home will not be expecting you when you show up baggage in hand. Or they may not be exactly as shown. One beautiful home I noticed on a travel website was in my neighborhood. Except the picture didn't show all of the construction equipment. The owners leased the property to a company doing nearby maintenance work. And it sat at the end of a runway, also not shown. Make sure your vacation doesn't start off poorly by thoroughly researching your options.

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Financial Insights

This year Independence Day falls smack dab in the middle of the week, rendering much of Wall Street a ghost town as would-be traders head to the beach. And it is not just the traders, as Americans everywhere head for vacation - further enticed by the triple digit temperatures much of the country has been experiencing. Commuters know this effect well, as traffic is noticeably light this week. There just isn't much business going on in the U.S. this week...

Yet we live in a technologically enhanced world, whereby work can be conducted from virtually any location, and in many cases more efficiently - away from the office "noise." It must be with satisfaction that the pharmaceutical executive conducts his late afternoon conference call with division heads from the ferry to Martha's Vineyard - allowing him to arrive soon enough to catch dinner with the family at their favorite eatery in Edgartown.

Or the stock trader who studies the P/E ratios of two comparable companies while using the WiFi aboard a US Airways A320 - off to see Mom for the long holiday weekend in the Midwest.

Worker productivity is becoming a state of mind more than a state of location. Those that adapt to this new trend can certainly lead more productive lives, both professionally and personally. Those that resist, will likely be displaced.

So how do we best leverage all this technology for greater productivity? Four habits to adopt:

Plan the commute: Too little planning occurs in a real time world. Think about the best channel to use for the upcoming task. If you want to sneak out of the office early, grab that long boring regulatory white paper you need to read - and read it on the train ride home. Set aside tasks suited for specific channels. For example, you may cleanup your voicemail each day on the drive home (hands free of course). Or perhaps you make calls to the west coast division during the evening commute, taking advantage of the time difference. The bottom line: Don't waste commute time. There are tasks that can be accomplished safely during this historically and notoriously unproductive period.

Learn the channels: By now you should be familiar with the most common communication channels; phone, email, internet access, voicemail and text. Adopt them all. Adapt to them all. And take the time to learn how to use them. You should be able to access all the channels from a modern day smartphone. If you don't know how to use a certain channel, take the time to learn. I have a colleague who instantly returns a phone call every time he receives a text. When I asked him why, he stated didn't know how to respond to a text. This went on for years - the epitome of intellectual laziness.

Select the channel carefully: It may be possible to avoid a ten minute phone call with a ten second text. Downloading your email to your laptop and reading it during your long flight is a productive use of time during a time period whereby noise levels and the chronic lack of connectivity severely limit the tasks that can be accomplished. There are times when a face-to-face meeting is crucial. But these instances are the exception, not the rule. Try to avoid unnecessary trips for communications that can be conducted electronically. As Skype, Tango and other video technologies further advance, it will be interesting to see how such channel utilization is optimized.

Be innovative: I have a friend who got a six month work assignment that involved a two hour commute - each way. Rather than treat it as drudgery, he learned Spanish via audio tapes. And fairly fluently. This is just an example of how to best utilize your time. So the next time your flight is delayed for three hours, don't moan and groan. Grasp the opportunity to clean up the contact lists on your computer and smartphone. Or better yet, "sync them to the cloud" so they all stay in sync automatically...

Happy travels!


"Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon." - Winston Churchill

Today in History

1775 - George Washington takes command of the Continental Army.

Flash Fact

The Continental Army was successful because they were trained to fight in hidden areas, while the British were trained to fight in open fields.

Have a comment about something you read in GCFlash? Suggestions for future articles? Drop us an email!

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