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.
Tips from FDIC Consumer News
Even in today’s digital and mobile world where electronic money transfers are common, consumers and businesses may still prefer the assumed security of paper cashier’s checks or official bank checks for large or major payments. Recipients generally prefer one of these checks over a personal check because the financial institution presumably has already collected the funds from the party purchasing the cashier’s checks or official bank checks. This means the payment is guaranteed, unless the check is counterfeit, so there are risks to consumers and businesses from these types of paper instruments, as well.
Unfortunately, criminals have come to rely on their victim’s sense of “security” provided by cashier’s checks and official bank checks. Advanced graphics and printing technologies allow scammers to easily create fraudulent and hard-to-detect counterfeit checks in a matter of minutes, adding a sense of legitimacy to their scams. Fake checks can look so real that it’s very hard for consumers, or even bank employees, to detect.
Fake bank checks are typically used in scams where the scammer tries to get you to cash or deposit the check. Once it is deposited, they ask that you send all or part of the proceeds back to them or to someone else (an accomplice) before the bank where it was deposited tries to clear or process the check for payment and realizes the instrument is fake. The scammer might ask you to return the funds in a number of ways: in cash, by writing a personal check, by loading it onto a pre-paid or gift card, or through some electronic means, such as a wire transfer, automated clearing house (ACH) payment, or a person to person (P2P) transaction.
If it is later determined that the check was counterfeit, you will likely be held responsible for the funds that were provided to the scammer, so it is important that you recognize the signs of a counterfeit check to protect yourself. Remember, fraud artists are constantly coming up with new ways to use fraudulent cashier’s or official bank checks in their scams. Here are three of the most common scams, and tips on how to detect whether or not you are being scammed.
1. Lotteries and Sudden Riches Scams.
Check recipients are told that they won a lottery—perhaps in a foreign country—or that they are entitled to receive an inheritance. The recipient is instructed that in order to “claim" their lottery winnings or inheritance, the recipient must first pay “taxes and fees” before they can receive their prize or money. A fake cashier’s check is sent, which the scammer asks the recipient to cash and then wire back the funds to cover the taxes and fees.
2. Online Auctions, Classified Listing Sites, and Overpayment Scams.
Scammers might go to an online auction or classified listing site and offer to buy an item for sale, pay for a service in advance, or rent an apartment. The odd thing is that they might send you a cashier’s check for an amount that is higher than your asking price. When you bring this to their attention, they will apologize for the oversight and ask you to quickly return the extra funds. The scammer’s motive is to get you to cash or deposit the check and send back legitimate money before you realize that the check you deposited is fake.
3. Secret or Mystery Shopper Employment Scams.
The scammer advertises a job opportunity and claims to be "hiring" people to work from home. The “employee” might receive an official check as a starting bonus, and is asked to cover the cost of “account activation.” The scammer hopes to receive these funds before the official check clears and the new employee realizes they’ve been scammed.
Another scenario involves an offer to work from home as a secret shopper to "assess the quality" of local money transfer businesses. The “employee” is sent a cashier’s check and instructed to deposit it in their bank account and withdraw the amount in cash. They are then instructed to use a local money transfer business to send the funds back to the “employer” and "evaluate" the service provided by the money transfer business.
How to Spot a Fake Check
Determining whether a cashier’s check or bank check is legitimate is difficult just by physical inspection. However, there are some things you can do to help identity a fake check:
- Make sure the check was issued by a legitimate bank. While some counterfeit checks will include a legitimate bank’s name, a fake name is a sure giveaway. FDIC BankFind allows you to locate FDIC-insured banking institutions in the United States.
- Check with the bank that supposedly issued the check and ask them to verify the check. Make use the phone number on the bank’s official website and don’t use the phone number printed on the check (that could be a phone number controlled and answered by the scam artist). They will likely need to know the check number, issuance date, and amount.
- Consider how and why you received the check. If someone you don’t know initiated the payment, be skeptical and proceed cautiously. Scammers often communicate with their victims via email or text message. Their communications may contain poor grammar and spelling errors.
- Look where the check was mailed from. If the postmark is not the same as the city and state of the “supposed” issuing bank, it might be an indication the check is fake. Be especially cautious if it was mailed from overseas.
- Determine if the amount of the check is correct and as expected. Fake checks are often made out for more than the agreed upon amount. This is intended to coax the person receiving the check into wiring the overpayment back to the scammer.
- Official checks usually contain watermarks, security threads, color-changing ink and other security features. While scammers are able to sometimes copy these security features, the quality is often poorly executed.
What to Do If You Are Scammed
If you think you’ve been targeted by a counterfeit check scam, report it immediately to any of the following agencies:
- The Federal Trade Commission at FTC Complaint Assistant.
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service at uspis.gov (if you received the check in the mail).
- Your state or local consumer protection agencies. Visit NAAG for a list of state Attorneys General.
- For possible online crimes involving counterfeit checks and money orders, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a joint project of the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center).
In addition to notifying the bank whose name is on the check, you can notify the website or online service where you encountered the scammer (for example, the online auction website or job posting website), so they can block them from utilizing their services in the future.
With summer almost over and the end of the year quickly approaching, fall is a great time for a cleanup. But that cleanup doesn't just have to involve your yard; it's also a great time to get your financial affairs in order.
Here are some steps you can take to get your finances in order this fall:
- Review your budget. One of the keys to managing money successfully is creating and sticking to a budget. If you have a budget, revisit your expenses and income to see what has changed. If your expenses are higher than you can afford, think about ways to cut them.
- Evaluate your savings. How much have you saved for the year? Think about ways you can save more — even if it's just a few extra dollars. One way to make saving easier is to have money automatically deducted from your bank account into a savings account each month.
- Set a holiday budget. The holiday season is an expensive time for many people. Try to determine how much money you'll need for holiday purchases and set a budget for it. By planning ahead and budgeting, you will avoid one of the most common mistakes people make — running up credit card debt
- Review your interest rates. If you have credit card balances, look at the interest rate you are paying. If it's too high, shop around and consider transferring your balance to a card with a lower interest rate. Take a closer look at your mortgage, too. If your mortgage rate is higher than current rates and you plan to remain in your home, consider refinancing.
- Check your credit report. One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to periodically check your credit report. Federal law requires that you can obtain one free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus: TransUnion,® Equifax,® and Experian.®
Learning success for children doesn't start with a bus ride or a classroom at school; it starts at home. Research has shown that the most successful students are those whose families and caregivers are actively involved in their learning.
So how can you make the grade and help your child succeed at school? Here are some simple steps:
- Get involved from the beginning. Attend your child's school open house to meet his or her teacher and let them know you're an involved parent. You might also ask the teacher the best method for communicating via email or phone.
- Attend curriculum nights and parent teacher conferences. This will give you the opportunity to know what your child is learning at school and how well he or she is performing. Use parent teacher conferences as an opportunity to discuss strategies on how to help your child succeed.
- Visit the school website. This will allow you to get familiar with the school calendar and important events, so you can plan your calendar accordingly.
- Request meetings. If you have concerns about your child, don't wait until a parent teacher conference. Pick up the phone or email your child's teacher to set up a time to discuss your concerns.
- Communicate. Notify your child's teacher about concerns or issues at home that may affect your child.
- Help support and encourage homework. Make sure you carve time out for your child to do homework and are available to help should he or she need assistance.
- Encourage good health. Give your child a healthy start each day with a nutritious breakfast and healthy lunch. Also, make sure your child gets plenty of sleep each evening.
- Volunteer. Offer to be a classroom helper, a field trip chaperone, or even a library assistant. This will allow you to see your child in the school environment.
- Talk to your children daily about how school is going. Listen and offer helpful suggestions and advice.
By taking these steps, you'll teach your child one of the most important lessons — that learning is a priority.
Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices as "mobile wallets" to pay for goods and services, downloading software that allows them to complete both mobile and in-person transactions. As the use of mobile wallet services increases, consumers need to protect their smartphones, mobile wallet applications, associated data, and mobile wallet services from theft and cyber-attacks.
How to safeguard your mobile wallet
- Never leave your smartphone unattended in a public place. Don't leave it visible in an unattended car; lock it up in the glove compartment or trunk.
- Consider your surroundings and use your smartphone or mobile device discreetly.
- Never use mobile payment services over an unsecured Wi-Fi network. (See the Wireless Connections and Bluetooth Security Tips consumer guide from the Federal Communications Commission.)
- Choose unique passwords for all of your mobile apps including your mobile wallet.
- Install and maintain security software. Apps are available to:
- Locate your smartphone from any computer.
- Lock your smartphone to restrict access.
- Wipe sensitive personal information and mobile wallet credentials from your smartphone.
- Make your smartphone emit a loud sound (“scream”) to help you or the police locate it.
- Be careful about what information you store. Social networking and other apps may pose a security risk and may possibly allow unwanted access to your personal information, including your mobile financial data.
- Monitor financial accounts linked to in mobile apps for any fraudulent charges. Review the service agreements for these accounts to find out what steps to take if your smartphone is lost, stolen or hacked, and what charges you may be responsible for paying.
- The police may need your smartphone's unique identifying information if it is stolen or lost. Write down the make, model number, serial number, and unique device identification number – either the International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) or the Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID) number. Some phones display the IMEI/MEID number when you dial *#06#. The IMEI/MEID can also be found on a label located beneath the phone's battery or on the box that came with your phone.
What to do if your mobile device is lost or stolen
- If you are not certain whether your smartphone or mobile device has been stolen, or if you have simply misplaced it, try locating the smartphone by calling it or by using the security software’s GPS locator.
- If you have installed security software on your smartphone, use it to lock the device, wipe sensitive personal information and/or activate the alarm.
- Immediately report the theft or loss to your wireless carrier. If you provide your carrier with the IMEI or MEID number, your carrier may be able to disable your smartphone and mobile payment apps, and block access to your personal information and sensitive data. Request written confirmation from your carrier that you reported the smartphone as missing and that the smartphone was disabled.
- Report the theft to the police. Some service providers require proof that the smartphone was stolen and a police report can provide that documentation.
- If you are unable to lock your stolen or lost smartphone, change all of your passwords for mobile payment apps and any bank or credit card accounts that you have accessed using your smartphone service, then contact those financial institutions about the loss or theft.
For more information about what to do if your wireless device is lost or stolen, along with contact information for service providers, read the FCC's consumer guide on protecting your mobile device .
Information for this article was provided by the Federal Communications Commission.
So you're thinking about buying a home? That's great. You may have even received lots of helpful advice from friends and family members about what you should do. That's great, too. But while getting guidance on what you can do to make the process easier is important, it's equally important to understand what not to do. Here are some home buying pitfalls you must avoid:
Not doing your research. Buying a home may very well be the biggest financial decision you will make in your lifetime. That's why it's so important to do your research before you even start home shopping. Your research should include home prices and values, neighborhoods, and schools. Remember, you're not just buying a home; you're buying the neighborhood, too.
Spending more than you can afford. When you start shopping for homes, you may be tempted to spend more to get all the features you want. However, that may end up giving you a monthly payment that keeps you up at night. The key is to set a budget and stick to it, no matter how tempting it might be to spend more.
Waiving the inspection. In competitive markets, buyers have been known to forgo home inspections to gain negotiating edges over other buyers. This is a serious mistake, as having a home inspection can help you uncover problems with the house that could end up costing you thousands of dollars.
Underestimating home buying costs. When you buy a home, you may incur closing costs from the lender. You will also be responsible for paying property taxes and homeowner's insurance. Additionally, if you purchase a condominium, you will have to pay a monthly condo fee.
Choosing the wrong lender. There are a lot of mortgage lenders and a lot of different rates. It's not always best to choose the lender with the lowest rate. It's a good idea to choose a lender you know and trust. Consider asking friends or family members for recommendations.
Changing jobs. If you think you may be buying a home, it's a good idea to stay in the same job or industry until after you buy the home. Changing jobs during the approval process will require the lender to do another employment verification and could impact their decision to approve your loan.
By following these simple steps, you'll make the process of buying the right home, in the right location, at the right price, a whole lot easier.
As home buyers in today's competitive real estate market know, it's tough out there. With inventory low in many areas, buyers have found themselves competing with multiple people and offers. To gain a negotiating edge, some buyers have even been willing to take a drastic step: waiving a home inspection.
It's a big risk to take.
Having a home properly inspected is one of the most prudent steps you can take when buying a home. Here's what an inspection can do for you:
- Uncover hidden problems. Just because a home looks pristine or well-conditioned from the outside, doesn't mean there aren't serious problems on the inside. Even newer homes can have structural problems or problems with electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling systems. A licensed home inspector is paid to uncover those hidden problems, which could end up costing you a significant amount of money to fix.
- Prevent safety problems. When it comes to your home, safety is everything. A home inspector can help you detect any issues that may put you and your loved ones at risk, such as mold, carbon monoxide, radon, or faulty wiring that could lead to electrical fires.
- Allow you to negotiate a lower price. If an inspector uncovers that the home has problems, you may be able to renegotiate the purchase price. Or, you could also ask the seller to fix any problems before you buy the home.
- Give you the freedom to walk. If you aren't comfortable with the findings on an inspection report and are unable to reach an agreement with the seller, you can be released from your offer to buy the home. Walking away from the home is better than the alternative of spending thousands of dollars in repairs.
- Help you determine maintenance costs. With a home inspection, you'll know exactly what you're getting with the home. For example, you'll know the condition of your roof and when you will have to replace it. This will allow you to budget for the cost or to go back to the seller and renegotiate the price of the home.
The bottom line
Having a home inspection is really about peace of mind and knowing that the home you want to buy is in good condition and worth the price you are willing to pay. That's something you should never be willing to sacrifice.
Are you read to buy a home? Our team of experienced lenders at KS StateBank are here to help you navigate the home buying process. Visit our Home Loans website to learn more about the loan options we offer and to find a lender.
Thinking about going on a vacation, paying for a wedding, buying gifts for birthdays and holidays, or perhaps you have another short-term money goal? We often think of savings for long-term purposes like retirement or buying a house, but they are great for short-term objectives too. Money in an account that is low-risk (less likely to lose money), allows for easy access, and provides opportunity for growth, is a great alternative to a piggy bank. Let’s look at some options to help you better meet your goals and keep your money safe.
A traditional bank savings account is a great place to put money aside for special occasions, as they allow you to withdraw funds easily and earn some interest. These accounts do not come with checks and usually limit the number of withdrawals you can make, which helps you avoid the temptation to spend your savings before you’re ready. You can even set up automatic transfers from your checking account to keep your special savings separate. This separation really helps avoid spending your money frivolously.
Money Market Deposit Accounts (MMDAs) are an attractive option for saving. They offer higher interest rates than traditional checking accounts and more options for accessing your money than traditional savings accounts. You can withdraw money more than from CDs, but there are some restrictions on the number of withdrawals you can make on a monthly basis. MMDAs generally require a higher initial deposit and minimum balance than other savings accounts.
Certificates of Deposit (CDs) are savings certificates where the money you put into them are invested by a bank for a set period of time – you can typically choose between one month and five years – and the bank gives you the money back with interest. Typically, the longer the term the more interest you earn. CDs have higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts, but you cannot withdraw the funds until the end of the specified term. If you need to withdraw the money before that time, you will have to pay a penalty fee.
Before putting your money into one of these accounts, be sure to compare current interest rates offered, as rates vary by bank and change constantly. The Truth in Savings Act requires financial institutions to provide a common method of disclosing rates of interest earned, known as the Annual Percentage Yield (APY), to allow consumers to effectively compare accounts between banks. You can compare APYs of different products to determine which one offers the best outcome for you (but note that the APY does not compare early withdrawal penalties where those penalties apply). Also make sure that you understand all restrictions associated with the account. For more information, go to FDIC Consumer Assistance Savings Related Resources.
In addition to saving money for short-term goals, setting money aside on a regular basis into any type of account and watching the savings accumulate can give you a real sense of financial empowerment. No matter what amount or account type, the earlier you start saving the better.
Information for this article was provided by FDIC Consumer News.
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Thursday, July 4 as we celebrate Independence Day. We will reopen during our regular hours on Friday, July 5. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!
We're Celebrating 50 Years!
We are excited to celebrate our 50th anniversary here at KS StateBank. With this milestone, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our past with gratitude and look ahead to an exciting future.
Phil Howe founded Kansas State Bank in February 1969 with temporary headquarters in a mobile home sitting on what is now Westloop Shopping Center in Manhattan. From the compact office space with five employees to now – growing to almost 300 employees at our branches and offices across Kansas, Minnesota, Arizona and Missouri and building nearly $2 billion in total assets – we’ve come a long way in 50 years.
While we have a lot of appreciation for our progress and the innovation that has come over the years, we are also proud of the things that have remained unchanged. As a family bank, we take great pride at KS StateBank knowing we have stayed true to the core values we were founded on: building relationships and earning the trust of potential and existing customers through character, competence and the promise of exceptional service. We value the opportunity to help our neighbors and our communities to make sure they have whatever they need to build a better tomorrow.
We look forward to where we will be in the next 50 years as we continue to build and grow our KS StateBank family. Thank you for choosing KS StateBank and thank you for contributing to our success.
Many teens think about how they can earn money, but it’s important that they learn how to manage it. Once they land that new job, your teen should establish a bank account to keep track of their new earnings and keep it safe. This step will open the door for hands-on experience managing money and help prepare them for the future.
Opening a Bank Account as a Teen
Banks offer accounts with different features, so it’s important to find out what is available, then compare them to make the best selection for your teen. Go over items such as minimum account balance requirements, mobile banking features, ATM fees, and interest rates offered when deciding on an account. Keep in mind that those under the age of 18 (or 21 in some states) will need to have a joint account with an adult. At KS StateBank, that age requirement is 16 on checking accounts, and if your child is below the age of 16 they can only be on a savings account.
Share and Gain Knowledge
Once their account is established, help your teen understand the information provided in bank statements, such as how money is credited to and debited from their account and the difference between an account’s current balance and available balance.
Different banks will charge different fees for different items, so it’s important that your teen know all about the fees their bank charges in relations to their account. You can find information about your bank’s fees by reviewing the account agreement or by asking for a copy of their fee schedule.
Talk About Savings…and Interest
As new account holders, your teen should also understand the importance of things like saving for emergencies and how compound interest works. Putting even a small amount of money from each paycheck into a savings account and leaving it untouched will allow the account balance to grow. Explain to them that when an interest payment is added to the balance, the balance increases, and when the next interest payment is calculated, it is based on the balance that includes the previous interest payment.
Where Does the Money Go?
Having a bank account is a great tool to help a new money-earner see the value of savings and also how to budget. Teens can work with you to figure out how much money is coming in and how to split that money up to buy day-to-day items, pay bills, and still set some aside for savings.
Use Mobile Banking Wisely
Mobile Banking allows your teen to perform many banking activities, such as depositing checks, transferring money between accounts, and checking account balances, on a smartphone or tablet. There are also a number of apps that can be uses for budgeting, tracking spending, and paying bills.
Money management is an important skill for teens to learn before they leave home, and a bank account is a great tool to teach teens about handling money. By opening an account, you open the door to important discussions about savings, budgeting, and proactive financial management.
For more information about helping teens with money management, check out the Money as You Grow section of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
Information for this article was provided by FDIC Consumer News.
Home is where most people feel safe and comfortable. But sometimes when weather emergencies, fires, or other disasters strikes it’s safest to pack up and go to another location. When it comes to preparing for these kinds of emergencies, financial readiness is as important as a flashlight with fully charged batteries. Leaving your home can be stressful, but knowing that your financial documents are up-to-date, in one place, and portable can make a big difference at a difficult time.
Here are some tips for financial readiness in case of an emergency:
Conduct a household inventory. Make a list of your possessions and document it with photos or a video. This could help if you are filing insurance claims. Keep one copy of your inventory in your home on a shelf in a lockable, fireproof file box; keep another in a safe deposit box or other secure location.
Buy a lockable, fireproof file box. Place important documents in the box; keep the box in a secure, accessible location on a shelf in your home so that you can "grab it and go" if the need arises. Among the contents:
- your household inventory
- a list of emergency contacts, including family members who live outside your area
- copies of current prescriptions
- health insurance cards or information
- all insurance policy numbers and the telephone numbers for your insurance companies
- copies of other important financial and family records (or notes about where they are) including deeds, titles, wills, birth and marriage certificates, passports, and relevant employee benefit and retirement documents. Except for wills, keep originals in a safe deposit box or some other location. If you have a will, ask your attorney to keep the original document.
- a list of phone numbers or email addresses of your creditors, financial institutions, landlords, and utility companies
- a list of bank, loan, credit card, mortgage, lease, debit, and investment account numbers
- Social Security cards
- backups of financial data you keep on your computer
- an extra set of keys for your house and car
- the key to your safe deposit box
- a small amount of cash (financial institutions or ATMs may be closed)
Consider renting a safe deposit box for storage of important documents. Original documents to store in a safe deposit box might include:
- deeds, titles, and other ownership records for your home, autos, RVs, or boats
- credit, lease, and other financial and payment agreements
- birth certificates, naturalization papers, and Social Security cards
- marriage license/divorce papers and child custody papers
- passports and military papers (if you need these regularly, you could place the originals in your fireproof box and a copy in your safe deposit box)
- appraisals of expensive jewelry and heirlooms
- certificates for stocks, bonds, and other investments and retirement accounts trust agreements
- living wills, powers of attorney, and health care powers of attorney insurance policies
- home improvement records
- household inventory documentation
- a copy of your will
Contact your local KS StateBank branch or Client Care for safe deposit box locations and availability.
Choose an out-of-town contact. Ask an out-of-town friend or relative to be the point of contact for your family, and make sure everyone in your family has the information. After some emergencies, it can be easier to make a long distance call than a local one.
Update all your information. Review the contents of your household inventory, your fireproof box, safe deposit box, and the information for your out-of-town contact at least once a year.
Be on guard against phone calls from con artists 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.
If this happens to you, always check with another family member about whether your relative actually is in trouble and needs money and only wire money to people you know. Don't wire money to strangers who claim they are helping your family.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Information from this article was provided by FDIC Consumer News.
Your home is your castle – and more than likely, your most valuable asset. But as every homeowner knows, maintaining that castle – from landscaping to aesthetics to system maintenance – can be expensive. At least if you have to hire professionals.
Fortunately, there is one affordable way to maintain your home without breaking the bank – you can take on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Here are some easy DIY projects to help you improve the look and value of your home.
- Painting. Nothing freshens up the interior or exterior of a home like a new coat of paint on walls, trim, ceilings, and siding.
- Power wash. Make the outside of your home shine by using a power washer to remove grime, dust, and mold.
- Increase curb appeal. Your front door is the first impression people will have of your home. You can help make a positive impression by giving your door a fresh coat of paint and replacing old hardware, such as the door knob, house numbers, or mailbox.
- Re-grout tile. If you want to give your bathrooms a fresher appearance, re-grout and caulk tile on the walls and areas around your bathtubs and showers.
- Replace kitchen hardware. Kitchen remodel not in your budget? You can still give your kitchen a new and updated look simply by replacing knobs and handles on cabinets and drawers.
- Install ceiling fans. Consider replacing lights in your rooms with lighted ceiling fans. Fans provide cool relief in the hot summer and recirculate heat in winter.
- Refinish hardwood floors. Wood floors can add value to a home. If you have floors that could use some shining or that are hidden underneath carpets, give them a fresh finish.
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day as we as we honor and remember those who have died serving in the United States Armed Forces. We will reopen during regular hours on Tuesday, May 28
Phishing is when you get emails, texts, or calls that seem to be from companies or people you know, but they are actually from scammer. They want you to click on a link or give personal information (like a password) so that they can steal your money or identity, and maybe get access to your computer.
As phishing becomes a top cyber threat, the American Bankers Association and the Federal Trade Commission have provided some tips on how to spot potential scams, how to protect ourselves against phishing attempts and how to notify the proper authorities.
Scammers use familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know. They ask you to click on a link or give passwords or bank account number. If you click on the link, they can install programs that lock you out of your computer and can steal your personal information.
Avoid the Hook
Check it out. Look up the website or phone number for the company or person who’s contacting you. Call that company or person directly and tell them about the message you received. Be sure to use a number that you know to be correct, not the number in the email or text.
Look for scam tip-offs. If you don’t have an account with the company, the message is missing your name, uses bad grammar and spelling, or if the person asks for personal information – including passwords – you should use caution. Some phishing schemes are sophisticated and look very real, so check it out and protect yourself.
Protect yourself. It’s important to keep your computer security up to date and back up your data often. Consider using multi-factor authentication – a second step to verify who you are, like a text with a code – for accounts that support it. If any of your passwords are compromised change them right away and don’t use them for any other accounts.
Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission at email@example.com and to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also
report it to the Federal Trade Commission on their website at ftc.gov/complaint.
For more information about phishing, visit ftc.gov/phishing.
Saving money is the most important step toward achieving a strong financial future. Yet for many American families who live paycheck to paycheck, finding the money to save can be a tremendous challenge.
What many people might not realize is that there are some small steps they can take to reduce monthly expenses and free up money to save. Here's how:
- Brown bag it. Buying lunch and coffee every day at work can really add up. Save money by brewing your own morning coffee and making your lunch.
- Put away your credit cards. Take your credit cards out of your wallet and hide them in a safe place to make them less accessible. Also, if you have high-interest credit card debt, focus on paying it off or transferring it to a card with a lower interest rate.
- Sign up for rewards programs. To encourage repeat business, most retailers offer rewards programs. Even though signing up can take a little longer at the register, it's worth it. You can earn valuable discounts, which could be used to get cash back, savings at the gas pump, or other money-saving benefits.
- Look at your bank fees. Are you paying high monthly fees on your checking account? Ask a banker to review your account to ensure you are in the right account for your balance level. Also avoid using foreign ATMs unless you have an account that offers reimbursements.
- Plan your meals in advance. To avoid the temptation to go out to eat or order in, plan your meals for the week. Even pre-cook and freeze some in advance, so that if you get home late or are too tired to cook, you can easily heat up a good meal.
- Shop for grocery deals. Planning ahead will also help you save money at the grocery store. Take a look at sales flyers and try to find the best deals on the foods you need.
- Reduce gas expense. Gas can be a big monthly expense. One way to conserve it is to run all your errands on one day, instead of making several trips a week. Also, if you have co-workers that live nearby, ask them to carpool.
- Use your library card. Reading is a great hobby, but if you purchase your books online or at the bookstore, it can be an expensive one. One easy way to avoid book expenses is to use your library card.
Following these steps will give you the extra money you need to pay your most important payee – you – making it easier to build your savings for things like retirement, college savings, or even an emergency fund.
April showers bring May flowers. And as many parents know, they can also bring restless children inside the house wondering what they can do when they can't play outside. Rest assured, there are some fun ways to keep the kids busy without breaking your budget.
- Set up camp. Get out those sleeping bags and pitch or make a tent indoors.
- Create a family photo album. Take out those boxes of photos and organize them into a family photo album.
- Create a recipe book. Ask your kids for their favorite recipes. Then have them write them down, and compile all their favorites into a family recipe book. Have them design the cover and inside pages.
- Design a family magazine. Encourage reading and writing and have some fun by having your children create their own magazine with stories about their favorite topics and interests. Ask them to select a clever name.
- Have a movie marathon. Ask each of your children to pick out their favorite movie and then have a marathon watching session. Don't forget the popcorn.
- Play board games. Board games are a great way to spend time with kids. You may even want to consider making your own board game together and then playing it.
- Play cards. Teach your kids how to play card games or maybe even make a card tower.
- Cook dinner together. Decide on a meal and assign everyone responsibilities to help prepare and serve it.
- Bake. Make some chocolate chip cookies or muffins together.
- Do a puzzle. It’s a great opportunity to relax and talk to your children.
KS StateBank Hero Program
Heroic service deserves heroic benefits! That’s why we are proud to offer the KS StateBank Hero Program to those who serve our communities making it a little easier for them to purchase the home they deserve.
If you are in K-12 education, work in local, state or federal law enforcement, are a firefighter or fire department employee, a veteran or a spouse of a veteran, this special home loan program is available to you. With the Hero Program you can benefit from having no lender fees and only pay third party closing costs. This program is available for owner occupied properties in 49 states. Qualifying loan programs include VA, FHA, Conventional, Jumbo and USDA.
What keeps you up at night? If it's worries about your finances, you're not alone. According to a poll by creditcards.com, approximately 65% of Americans stay up at night worrying about money. So what specifically is causing their sleepless nights?
Here are three of the most common worries and some proven remedies for putting them to rest.
Worry – managing debt. For all too many people, debt is a part of life. One of the biggest sources of debt is credit card debt. According to a recent Federal Reserve report, the average person in the United States has more than $4,000 in credit card debt.
Remedy: Make a concerted effort to pay off your debt. Be sure to pay more than your minimum monthly payment and to pay off higher-interest debt first. And of course, use your credit card only when you know you can pay off the balance each month
Worry – living paycheck to paycheck. With the high cost of living today, many people find it difficult to build savings, which is critical for managing life's expected and unexpected expenses.
Remedy: Set a budget. Take a careful look at your income and expenses to determine how much net income you have each month. Then, determine ways you can reduce expenses to increase the income you have to save. Once you determine how much you can save, arrange to have money automatically transferred to a savings account every pay period or month.
Worry – retirement savings. Not having enough money to fund retirement is one of the greatest worries for Americans.
Remedy: Remember that it's never too early or too late to save for retirement. If your employer offers a retirement plan, enroll in it and take advantage of any matching contributions. If you aren't able to join an employer's plan, you can open and contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The key is to make regular contributions over time.
By following these simple remedies, you can take control of your finances and most importantly… get back to sleep.
Daylight Savings Time Begins
Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, March 10 for much of the country. Remember to spring forward and move your clocks ahead one hour.
Changes in banking technology make managing your refund safer and easier than ever. The FDIC has provided the following tips to ensure that your refund arrives as quickly and safely as possible along with some ideas on how to get the most out of your money when it does.
The Refund Process
The fastest way to get your tax refund is to have it electronically deposited into your financial account through the IRS’s Direct Deposit Program. It’s free to consumers, and it allows you to deposit your refund into as many as three separate accounts.
While you can still receive your refund in the form of a paper check, there are several advantages to direct deposit. Not only is it faster, direct deposit is also more secure. Refund checks sent through the mail can be lost, stolen, or returned to the IRS, if undeliverable.
Another option is to have your refund deposited onto a prepaid card. If you use a prepaid card, read the fine print and make sure you know how to deposit money onto the card and any fees involved. Cards differ in the types of deposits allowed, the process for receiving government deposits, and the fees charged for certain transactions. If you set up a new prepaid card account for your refund, you may be required to provide information to validate your identity, such as your Social Security number and date of birth.
Protect Your Money from Tax Scams
Be wary of phone calls and emails from anyone claiming to be from the IRS. Identity thieves have been known to pose as IRS agents, providing a fake name and IRS badge number and even creating a fake phone number that appears on caller ID as coming from the IRS. These thieves often threaten people with audits, deportation, and other legal action or promise checks for unclaimed funds.
The IRS typically does not initiate emails to individuals asking for personal information. Before acting on any phone call or email purportedly from the IRS, call the agency at 800-829-1040. An agent will be able to verify whether the IRS is in fact trying to get in touch with you. If you are certain the contact was part of a scam, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 800-366-4484. You can also report unsolicited emails by forwarding it to mail to: phishing@IRS.gov.
Some people use tax preparers to assist them with preparing their tax return. Be wary of tax preparers who advertise with fliers or posters promising large refunds or special inside knowledge of little known tax credits and rebates or those volunteering to come to your home to prepare your taxes. These scammers make money stealing your personal information for later use and collecting fees. If you aren’t sure, ask for the tax preparer’s PTIN, which is the IRS tax preparer identification number that all legitimate preparers must have. Also, ask the preparer for references.
What to Do with Your Refund
Once you have received your refund, you need to decide what to do with it. Many people use tax refunds to make large purchases they might not have the cash for at other times of the year. It can also provide a great opportunity to start a new savings option, contribute to your emergency fund, or reduce outstanding debt.
If you are getting a tax refund this year, remember to take steps to keep your refund safe, know the refund options available to you, and consider different ways to make your money work harder for you.
Read FDIC Consumer News for more about the FDIC’s tips for tax season.
Do you want to get ahead in your career? It takes more than just proper training and education. There are some essential skills for professional success that can't be gleaned from a book or taught in a classroom. They are called "soft skills" and here are five key ones that can help you climb the corporate ladder:
- Communication. Good communication skills are vital to helping others form a positive opinion of you. In the workplace, you need to be able to communicate well in writing (emails, reports, etc.) and in person (meetings, presentations, sales opportunities). It's also important to perfect another type of communication – non-verbal communication. This includes your body language and facial expressions, which project your attitude to others.
- Leadership. If you want to elevate your career, you'll need to demonstrate leadership skills. Leaders motivate, empower, and inspire others. You can be a leader among your peers by taking responsibility for projects, and providing assistance to others.
- Collaboration. Individually, you can do a lot for your company and your career, but collectively teaming up with your co-workers, you can accomplish and learn more. Take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with others on projects, leverage their strengths, assist them with their challenges, and listen to and learn from their ideas and insights.
- Problem solving. Problems exist in every workplace and position. What's not as common is having problem solvers who don't just report problems, but develop solutions for them. Before reporting a problem to your manager, prepare possible solutions to resolve it.
- Interpersonal skills. You could be the smartest person in your company, but if you can't get along with others and build relationships, you likely will not advance.
At this point in your career, you may not have mastered all these soft skills, but with more time and experience, you'll learn that developing them is not all that hard.
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, February 18 in observance of Presidents Day. We will reopen during regular hours on Tuesday, February 19.
Don't just set savings goals for the new year, achieve them! After some well-deserved indulgence over the holidays, it's time to refocus on all that you want to do in 2019 and set yourself up for healthy financial goals.
According to website MagnifyMoney, a third of holiday spenders said it will take them more than three months to pay off their holiday bills. And much of that is because instead of socking away a little at a time over the course of the year, most people put everything on credit cards at the last minute.
Try something different this year.
Use our online financial management tool, My Money, to make your spending and savings resolutions easier. You may not hit all the targets, but at least setting them allows you to get an idea of what's in store, so you don't get caught by surprise next January. And it's really easy with My Money. Plus, you can also set savings targets for your summer vacation, back to school, or whatever savings goals you have before the next holiday season!
Look for the My Money tab in your Online Banking account to get started or visit the My Money page to learn more!
Is it less expensive to buy or build a house? That's a question that many homebuyers have – whether they're first-time buyers or looking toward their next move. Here's what you need to know about buying an existing home versus building a custom home.
The Upfront Costs
Existing Home: The price of a home vary widely as it depends on the area, the square footage, the condition, the amenities, as well as many other factors.
Building a New Home: All things being equal and generally speaking, building a new home costs about $60-$70k more than buying an existing home with similar attributes. But that is not always the case. There are some instances where the cost per square foot comes out significantly less in a custom built home than in an existing home.
Existing Home: Older homes require more maintenance because they have more wear and tear. Some homes may even need a big-time overhaul. As with any home purchase, never skip the home inspection and understand that even with well-maintained homes, repairs are inevitable.
Building a New Home: Maintenance on a new home is very little, and it's one of the central benefits of building a new home. Since everything from appliances to the HVAC system is new and under warranty, you'll enjoy several years of worry-free living. Some contractors even offer a whole home warranty that protects the house for up to 10 years!
Existing Home: A mature garden with large trees and well-established landscaping is a big plus of buying an existing home. Mature trees and landscaping not only add value to the property but can even help to reduce energy costs by providing shade and efficient drainage.
Building a New Home: Professional landscaping can cost thousands plus many years to come to fruition. The benefit, however, is that you'll be able to design your outdoor space precisely to your liking and in very little time. Depending on the project, you can have a custom-designed yard in two weeks or less.
Existing Home: Older homes that have had little to no updating use more energy. Appliances that are older than ten years, single-pane windows, and poor insulation are some updates you'll want to consider if you buy an existing home.
Building a New Home: On average, new homes use about 21% less energy than older homes. However, this saving comes mostly from high-efficiency appliances. Meaning that if you purchase new high-efficiency appliances for an existing home, you can save just as much money on energy with an existing home as you would with new construction.
Existing Home: With an existing home you can see the home's previous sale prices, the cost of similar homes in the area, and have a good idea of what the market value of your home will be in the future.
Building a New Home: New homes, especially those in up-and-coming neighborhoods, can be more of a gamble. Without any sale history or comparable to reference, you have very little to go on when thinking about the future value of your home. Of course, if this is your forever home, which is often the case with custom-built homes, then not having a history to predict the future may not matter.
Whether you're buying an existing home or building a new one, our team of experienced mortgage lenders can help you through the process. To get started visit our Home Loans website, homeloans.ksstate.bank.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, January 21 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We will reopen during regular hours on Tuesday, January 22.
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