News for YOU!
News for YOU! is a free, monthly newsletter provided by KS StateBank that offers tips and other information to help you make wise financial choices. Please feel free to sign up now to receive new editions of our newsletters each month, as well as other updates. You can also subscribe to our business newsletter, News for YOU! Business Edition.
Buying a home. It's the American dream and one you may hope to realize soon. You may have even begun looking at homes online or canvassing neighborhoods to find the home that's right for you. But before you set out on your home buying journey, there are some important steps you should take to be mortgage ready:
- Determine how much you can afford. It's important to know how much you can afford before you start looking for a home. You can ask one of our lenders to do a mortgage prequalification or use pre-qualification tools online. A prequalification is an estimate that will let you know much you can afford by factoring in your income and savings.
- Start your home search. Once you have a general idea of how much you can afford, you can narrow your home search and start looking for homes in your price range. You can use real estate websites, such as realtor.com or Zillow.com to get a sense for housing prices. You can also look at trends to see what houses are selling for in your target area.
- Check your credit. Good credit is essential to getting a mortgage and saving money. Before you apply for a mortgage, get a copy of your credit report. If your credit score needs improvement, try to pay down any outstanding balances and avoid taking out any additional credit before you apply for a mortgage.
- Save for your down payment and expenses. A down payment can be as little as 3%t of the price of a home. Of course, the more cash you put down on the home, the less you'll need to borrow. You will also need to ensure you have funds to pay for closing costs and to cover any unexpected expenses you might encounter, such as home repairs.
- Go mortgage shopping. Just as you need to shop for the right home, you need to look for the right mortgage. At KS StateBank we pride ourselves in low rates while still providing the customer service you deserve. We encourage you to compare rates and fees by using all the online tools available.
The best thing you can do is be informed about the home buying process. Use all the tools and resources available to you. Knowledge is power and can very well be the key to opening the door to your perfect home. To learn more about KS StateBank home loans, visit homeloans.ksstate.bank
We want to help the ones we love anyway we can, but there are a few things to keep in mind when helping your family with their finances. We’ve got a list of tips for those wanting to help out their relatives.
Be on guard against phone calls from scammers who target seniors. A common scam involves an imposter pretending to be a relative in trouble. ("My wallet was stolen" or "I'm in jail.") These callers do enough homework to mention the name of the relative or other people the senior citizen knows. And by "crying," it is difficult to recognize the voice. The scammer usually pleads for money to be sent immediately by wire transfer and to not tell any family members for fear of upsetting them. In one variation, the caller may instead claim to be a lawyer, police officer or someone else trying to "help" your relative. Always check with another family member about whether your relative actually is in trouble and needs money.
Understand the potential pitfalls of co-signing a loan for a relative. It's tempting to help a loved one borrow money for that first car, credit card or student loan, but by doing so you will be liable for the full amount of the debt, plus interest, if he or she doesn't pay what's due. Remember, when you co-sign a loan or otherwise sign up as a "guarantor," you are agreeing to become just as liable to pay the loan as the other borrower.
Talk with your younger relatives about how to manage money and use banking services responsibly. Research indicates that parents or other family members regularly talking with a child about basic financial concepts — starting early and into adulthood — is an effective and lasting way to help develop sound money-management skills. Teaching self-control, the ability to delay gratification, and basic math skills early on can lay a foundation for years later, when you are teaching the youngster concepts such as the benefits of saving money for a sizable purchase, perhaps a car or bicycle, and how to wisely manage credit.
Explore ways to save money for a child. If you want to help pay for a younger relative's education expenses, such as tuition for college, you may want to open a tax-advantaged 529 Account or Coverdell Education Savings Account. As long as all funds are used for qualified educational purposes, the money earned will not be taxed. Another aspect of 529 accounts is that you determine how the funds are spent.
Its spring, the time to get out your cleaners and yard tools, and start cleaning up your home. It's also a great time to polish up something that's even more valuable than your home – your life. Here are some small tasks that can go a long way in helping you grow this spring:
- Straighten up your finances. Do you want to grow your savings? Or do you have credit card or other debt you would like to clear out? Stop and review your budget to determine how you can save more, and do it. The extra money you find can be used to invest or pay down debt
- Clean out and declutter. Less is more. So, if you have clothes, shoes, or other items in your closet you never wear, clear them out. Consider donating gently used clothes and other items to a local charity to help those in need. If you have a desktop or workstation that's overflowing with papers and mail, purchase folders and organizers to make your work life a little less complicated.
- Hang up social media distractions. Social media is a great way to connect with others, but it can also be a distraction that takes you away from the things important to you. Consider turning off notifications, so you won't be constantly distracted or interrupted by people who comment on your photos or like your posts.
- Get outdoors. Spring is a great time to be outside. Think about taking up a new outdoor exercise, such as bike riding, tennis, or walking. If you really want to challenge yourself, train to compete in a road or bike race.
- Mix in some laughter. Laughter is one of the best ways to manage stress and connect with others. Try to bring laughter in your life by watching your favorite sitcom or attending a comedy show.
The short spring season will be gone before you know it; so start freshening up your life today.
Social media networks and dating websites have become increasingly popular tools for meeting and communicating. Unfortunately, fraudsters have capitalized on this trend and often create fake profiles to lure in victims, establish romantic relationships and eventually, extort money. Older Americans in particular have been targeted by this type of scam. According to the FBI, over $220 million was lost in 2016 to online romance scam artists.
While online dating can open doors to loving, happy relationships, we are receiving more and more reports of criminals using these platforms to take advantage of unsuspecting users. Approach these relationships with caution so you don’t end up with a broken heart and an empty wallet.
What are the signs of a scam?
- Professes love quickly
- Claims to be from the U.S., but is overseas for business or military service
- Asks for money, and lures you off the dating site
- Claims to need money for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is being scammed, we recommend taking the following precautions:
- Slow down – and talk to someone you trust. Don’t let a scammer rush you
- Never wire money, put money on a gift or cash reload card, or send cash to an online love interest. You won’t get it back
- Contact your bank right away if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer
- Report your experience to:
According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers received a tax refund averaging nearly $3,000 in 2017 and will get a similar amount this year. As Americans receive their refunds along with additional benefits coming from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December, we’ve highlighted some tips to help you make the most out of your money.
- Save for emergencies. You can prepare for unexpected expenses by opening or adding to a savings account that serves as an “emergency fund.” Ideally, it should hold about three to six months of living expenses in case of sudden financial hardships like losing your job or having to replace your car.
- Pay off debt. Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
- Save for retirement. Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. While a 401(k) is employer-sponsored, we can help you set up an IRA. If you have questions about your current IRAs or want to open a new one, don’t hesitate to call us at 800-588-6805 or stop into one of our branches.
- Save for your child’s education. Look into opening a tax-advantaged 529 education savings plan to ensure school expenses will be covered when your child reaches college age.
- Pay down your mortgage or student loans. Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loans each year to save money on interest while reducing the term of your loans. Be sure to inform your lender that your extra payments should be applied to principal, not interest.
- Invest in your current home. Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will pay you back in the long run by increasing the value of your home. This can include small, cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term – and with tax credits (as long as Congress continues to renew the program).
- Donate to charity. Giving to charity will make a difference in your community, and you can also claim the tax deduction, if you itemize.
Tax season is the perfect time to hit the reset button on your finances and your refund can help put you on the right path towards reaching your financial goals.
Technology has connected us in ways we never thought possible. But while it can bring us closer to people around the world, it can often prevent us from connecting with those who are the closest to us — our children. Between social media sites, online games, and streaming music, movies, and TV shows, it's hard for modern parents to compete for the attention of their children.
Here are simple and fun ways to reconnect with your children. The best part is no batteries or chargers are even required.
- Come to the kitchen table. Busy schedules can make it hard for families to sit down at the same time to share a meal. Try to schedule family dinners or breakfasts a few times a week and encourage everyone to keep their electronic devices from the table and to talk about their days.
- Cook a meal together. Decide what you will make and plan to go shopping together for ingredients. When you cook the meal, you'll have valuable time to talk.
- Exercise. You can make it as simple as arranging to go on a long walk or play basketball in your driveway. It doesn't matter what activity you choose; the important thing is that you pick a healthy way to spend time together.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to connect with your children and to make a difference in the life of someone in need. Consider volunteering with your child at a food pantry or delivering meals to the elderly.
- Try something new. Is there something you and your child have never done that you would both like to try? Maybe you'd like to learn how to sail, to make pottery, or to try yoga?
- Play a game. Dust off your Monopoly game or checkerboard and show your children that there's another way to play games besides playing them on the computer. Maybe even do a puzzle together.
- Take on a home improvement project. Does your child want to change the color of their room or build shelves? Plan to do a project together and involve your child every step of the way.
It really doesn't matter what activity you choose. The important thing is that you've taken your child away from electronics and reminded them about the most important connection of all — family.
Daylight Savings Time Begins
It’s time to spring forward! Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, March 11, so don’t forget to move your clocks ahead one hour.
Based on what we're hearing will happen in 2018, this upcoming year has the potential to be yet another good year for homeowners and those who wish to become homeowners. We've put together a list of the three biggest things experts are predicting for 2018...and what they'll mean for those who currently own a home or are looking to in the future.
More lenders will offer financing options to borrowers who fall outside the "qualified mortgage rule." The qualified mortgage rule, also known as the Ability to Repay (ATR), is a standard that was adopted when the Dodd-Frank act came into play. It's a basic standard that borrowers must meet in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. However, there are many potential borrowers in the marketplace who don't meet traditional qualifications (although they would be excellent and responsible borrowers nonetheless), and thus are unable to secure financing.
Ever since Dodd-Frank, lenders have started looking for ways to lend to borrowers who fall outside this qualified mortgage rule. Now that mortgage rates are rising (meaning that refinance applications are slowing down) and risk management and compliance processes become more streamlined, some lenders, including us will start offering financing to these "non-traditional" borrowers.
What does this mean for you? If you've attempted to get mortgage financing in the past but haven't been able to jump that ATR hurdle, 2018 may make it easier for you to secure a loan—and achieve your dream of homeownership.
New technology initiatives from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will improve the borrowing experience. The two big mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have new technology-based initiatives that will be unveiled in 2018. These have been designed to make the borrowing experience more efficient and less frustrating for borrowers. This will also help lenders qualify even more borrowers because the technology helps more individuals fit inside the "credit box", aka the mortgage credit standards.
What does this mean for you? Streamlining the borrowing experience will help drive down costs and create better ways to finance homes—both of which will result in savings for your pocketbook. It also potentially means a faster loan origination process.
Technology and automation will become more integrated into in the mortgage process. These days, customers are demanding efficiency and transparency in just about everything they do, and that includes the mortgage process. In the past, all parts of the mortgage process have been handled by human beings, but as technology continues to improve more parts of the mortgage process will be able to be automated.
What does this mean for you? A better experience. Self-service options will continue to expand, processes will become much easier to navigate and the overall experience will become better and faster.
If buying a home is one of your goals for this upcoming year, contact a KS StateBank mortgage lender. With our competitive rates, low fees, and our focus on creating positive client experiences, we're in a great position to help you in 2018...and for years to come.
As the 2018 tax season gets underway, KS StateBank is urging all of our clients to take extra precaution when filing their return to prevent their exposure to tax fraud.
Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.
Here are a few tips to follow to help keep your information safe during tax season:
- File early. File your tax return as soon as you’re able giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
- File on a protected Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
- Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
- Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
- Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents that you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
- Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
- Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.
If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
- Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 1-800-525-6285
- Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, February 19 in observance of Presidents Day. We will reopen during regular hours on Tuesday, February 20.
If you've ever had the unfortunate experience of losing your wallet, having it stolen, or even temporarily misplacing it, you know how scary that can be, especially if your wallet ended up in the wrong hands.
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to know exactly what you have in your wallet and include only what you need. There are only a few things you actually do need, including:
- Driver's License. You need a driver's license to operate a motor vehicle, board a flight, or simply to provide identification, so make sure you have it with you at all times.
- Cash. Although it seems like we are moving toward a cashless society, it's important to always have cash with you in case you can't find an ATM or need to purchase something from an establishment that does not accept credit cards.
- Debit card. Your debit card allows you to get cash at the ATM, but also can be used to make purchases. Plus, when you carry your debit card, you won't need to carry large amounts of cash in your wallet, which can make you more vulnerable to theft. If your KS StateBank debit card is ever lost or stolen be sure to contact us right away.
- Credit card. You may also need a credit card in the event of an emergency or unexpected expense, such as car repairs when you are away from home.
- Insurance card. If you experience a medical emergency or even have to go to the doctor, you'll need to present your insurance card.
There are some things you should NEVER carry in your wallet, including:
- Social Security card. In the wrong hands, your Social Security number could allow an identity thief to open accounts in your name.
- A house key. A thief will not only be able to figure out where your home is, but also get into it.
- Blank checks. A thief could forge your signature and steal money from your bank account.
- Your Debit Card PIN or other security passwords. We strongly encourage you not to write down your PIN numbers and security passwords at all. However, if you do have to write that information down, leave it at home in a secure place where others can’t see it.
- Multiple department store cards. If you have department store credit cards that allow you to save, don't carry them all with you. Bring only the card you need to shop.
Check what’s in your wallet today. It might save you a whole lot of money and aggravation down the road.
Email manners matter. Every email you send out — for some of us, that could be hundreds a week — is a reflection on you. That's why it's important to carefully review what you’re sending and to adhere to these Do's and Don'ts of email etiquette:
- Include a friendly or professional greeting and closing with every email. You can greet the person with "Dear" or "Hello" and sign off with "Best" or "Thank you." Without these elements, your email could come off as abrupt.
- Spell check every email you send. Typos in an email can give the impression that you are careless or lazy.
- Be brief and to the point. If you can say it in fewer words, do so. People today are so flooded with emails that they don't have a lot of time to read.
- Review your email for tone and grammar.
- Make sure to write in complete sentences.
- Avoid using emojis or excessive exclamation marks.
- Make sure your subject line is concise and accurately reflects what your email is about.
- Review the audience for the email. Have you included everyone you need to include? Are you including people who don't need to know about the content of your email?
- Understand that sarcasm and humor may not be perceived as easily via email, so try to avoid them, especially in business communications.
- Include a signature in every email that identifies who you are and how you can be reached.
- Avoid acronyms often used with texting, such as BTW — by the way, or TTYL — talk to you later.
- Type in all caps. The person receiving your email may think you are YELLING AT THEM!
- Use multiple colors or patterns in your emails, which can make your content harder to read.
- Send large attachments without warning the recipient about them beforehand.
- Send large attachments without compressing them.
- Forward jokes, chain letters, or other unnecessary emails to others.
- Select "Reply All" without verifying that all recipients need to see your response.
- Send sensitive or personal information in your emails. When sending sensitive or personal information to us at KS StateBank, be sure to use our Confidential Email system.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, January 15 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. We will reopen during regular hours on Tuesday, January 16.
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