2021 News Archives
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.
Prepare Your Finances for the Unexpected
The road of life is filled with many unexpected twists and turns. And though it would be great to know exactly when you might encounter a road bump like a market downturn, unexpected job loss, or health issue, it’s not always possible. What is possible, though, is financially preparing for the unexpected. Here are seven steps that can help you:
- Know where you stand today. How well do you know your personal finances? Do you know if you have enough money saved to meet your life expenses? Or how much money you have in debt? Or even the interest rate on your mortgage if you have one? When it comes to your money, knowledge truly is power. So make sure you understand your financial situation in full.
- Save, save, save. You know that piggy bank lesson your parents taught you in your youth? Well, you can still learn from it today. It's important to have money set aside for a "rainy day" also known as an emergency fund. Many experts recommend having at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses, which includes your rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation expenses, debt payments, food, and more. An emergency fund should be used only in emergencies.
- Get your debt in order. Debt happens. In fact, according to CNBC, the average American owes $90,460 in debt, which may include personal loans, mortgages, and student loans. But just because you have debt doesn't mean you can't lower the amount you have to pay each month. For example, you could consolidate higher-interest credit card debt with a balance transfer offer. Or, if you have a mortgage, you could look into refinancing to a lower rate or extending the term of your loan.
- Trim your spending. One of the best ways to save money and prepare for the unexpected is to cut your spending. That involves reviewing your expenses to determine exactly where your money is going each month. Once you figure that out, look for ways to trim your budget and save more. For example, if you're spending a lot of money on online subscription services, think about reducing the services you have.
- Plan, plan, plan. Planning is a great defense in preparing financially. For example, you can plan for holiday gift giving by setting aside money before the holiday. Or plan medical procedures in the same year, so you can meet your deductible and lower out-of-pocket expenses.
- Schedule financial checkups. Review your financial situation and plans every few months to gauge your progress and make adjustments.
- Ensure you have insurance coverage. Insurance can be a valuable tool in your financial planning that can help protect you and your loved ones from unforeseen circumstances, such as injury or death.
The power to prepare is in your control.
Though you may not be able to see what the path of life has in store for you, you can ensure your finances have you better prepared for whatever may be ahead.
Celebrate Small Businesses This Holiday Season and All Year Long
Small Business Saturday, created by American Express® during the recession of 2010, encourages consumers to support local businesses during the holiday season and is held every Saturday following Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving and Small Business Saturday may be behind us this year, it is important to support small businesses not only during the holidays, but all year long.
Here's how you can support small businesses:
- Shop local. Drop into local businesses during the holidays and throughout the year. If you're not comfortable shopping in person, order online or by phone.
- Purchase gift cards. In addition to being great presents, gift cards provide the perfect opportunity to support a variety of local businesses – from restaurants to hair salons.
- Dine in or out. The restaurant industry was hit hard during the pandemic, so it's great to support them either by dining in or ordering take out. Many offer home delivery or curbside pickup for added safety and convenience.
- Follow your favorite businesses on social media. Give a shoutout to your favorite local business to let your friends and family know what they have to offer.
- Write an online review. Word of mouth can be a great way to help businesses gain traction. If you've had a great experience with a local business, write a killer review.
Small businesses are so vital to the health and wellbeing of our communities. But with the devastating impact of the pandemic over the past year, they need our help more than ever. Give them the gift of your business this holiday season and throughout the year.
All KS StateBank locations will close at noon on Friday, December 24 for Christmas. We’ll reopen at our regular times on Monday, December 27. We will be open during regular hours on New Year’s Eve, and will be closed New Year’s Day.
We wish you a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year!
Don’t Get Scammed This Holiday Season
Every day, thousands of people fall victim to fraudulent emails, texts and calls from scammers pretending to be their bank. Add to that this time of expanded use of online banking and the busy holiday shopping season, it’s important to be more aware of potential scams.
Online scams aren’t so scary when you know what to look for. And at KS StateBank, we’re committed to helping you spot them as an extra layer of protection for your account.
We want every bank client to become a pro at spotting a phishing scam—and stop bank impostors in their tracks— especially during the holidays. That's why we've joined the American Bankers Association (ABA) in a nationwide effort to educate consumers about how to avoid and spot phishing scams. It starts with these four words: Banks Never Ask That. Because when you know what sounds suspicious, you’ll be less likely to be fooled.
These top three phishing scams are full of red flags:
- Text Message: If you receive a text message from someone claiming to be your bank asking you to sign in, or offer up your personal information, it’s a scam.
- Email: Use caution with emails that ask you to click a suspicious link or provide personal information.
- Phone Call: Would your bank ever call you to verify your account number? No! If you’re ever in doubt that the caller is legitimate, just hang up and call the bank directly at a number you trust.
For more tips and tools to avoid scams this holiday season, including videos, an interactive quiz and more, visit the ABA's website BanksNeverAskThat.com.
Financial Tips for Military Families
As we honor our military heroes this Veterans Day, we are reminded of the many sacrifices servicemembers and their families make to protect our nation. Military families do an incredible service for this country. The nature of their jobs is inherently stressful – but financial stress shouldn’t be part of it. We’re highlighting seven financial tips to help make the lives of military families a little easier.
We’re sharing the following tips to help servicemembers pave the way toward a strong financial future:
- Contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan. Military members have access to the Federal Thrift Savings Program, which offers the lowest-cost retirement-savings plan available. Have automatic contributions withdrawn from your paycheck.
- Plan for deployment. Before deploying, have a conversation with your family about managing the household budget. Consider granting power of attorney to your spouse, should they need to make any urgent financial decisions while you are gone. Check with your bank to see if they have pre-printed forms you can use for bank accounts. Military personnel also receive additional funds while deployed. Decide on the best use for that extra cash, whether it be paying off debt or additional Thrift Savings Plan contributions.
- Meet with your banker before active duty. The Servicemember Civil Relief Act offers all military personnel entering active duty a variety of financial protections. The SCRA covers issues ranging from interest rate reductions to limits on debt accrual. Ask your banker about the key provisions of this law and how they can help you.
- Consider housing options. With mortgage rates at notably low levels, homeownership can seem like a no-brainer. However, servicemembers should consider their options. Frequent relocations and deployments can make owning a home challenging and expensive. Renting may be a smart option for short-term assignments. Decide what’s best for your family and your finances.
- Consult a financial advisor. Schedule a visit at a Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) office, located in your military and family support centers. They offer free one-on-one counseling, as well as other financial education resources.
- Budget for a single-income household. Frequent moves are an inevitable part of military life and can make it difficult for spouses to establish stable careers. As a precaution, make plans to operate on a single-income household budget. That way, should your spouse’s employment status change, your family will be prepared.
- Set up automatic bill pay. Whether you’re stationed state-side or overseas, automatic bill pay will give you and your family one less thing to worry about each month. It can be particularly helpful during deployments in regions where internet access is unreliable and mobile banking isn’t an option.
Veterans Day: We will be closed on Thursday, November 11 for Veterans Day as we honor those who have served our country. Thank you to our veterans for your bravery and sacrifice.
Thanksgiving: Our branches and offices will also be closed on Thursday, November 25 for Thanksgiving. We’ll return to normal hours on Friday, November 26. We’re grateful for all of our clients and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Automate Your Financial Life
Technology can help us in many ways. But are you using it to help you bank smarter and get more out of your money in less time? Here are some ways using available banking technology can help you.
- Use Online and Mobile Banking. Wondering what your account balance is? Or if a check has cleared your account? Instead of calling the bank or reviewing your monthly account statement, enroll in Online and Mobile Banking to view your account activity — any time. With these convenient services, you can check balances, transfer funds, and even set account alerts to notify you about specific account activity.
- Pay bills and people electronically. Think paying bills is a hassle? You can make it a whole lot easier by paying them electronically with online bill payment. You can pay just about anyone — from your babysitter to the utility company — with just a few clicks of the mouse. You can even arrange to have recurring bill payments, such as your rent or mortgage paid automatically each month.
- Set up automatic debits. Need to pay your gym membership or your monthly phone bill? You can save time by having billers automatically debit your account each month. All you need to do is provide your account number and your routing and transit number.
- Deposit checks from your mobile device. Need to cash a check? With Mobile Deposit, you can deposit your check in seconds — right from your mobile device. You'll save a trip to the bank or ATM and will have faster access to your money.
- Sign up for electronic statements. You'll not only save valuable time storing and filing statements; you'll also help save paper – and the planet.
- Set up transfers to savings. For a convenient and easy way to save, arrange to have funds from your checking account automatically deposited to your savings account each month.
- Sign up for direct deposit. Why wait to receive a paper check on payday? With direct deposit, your funds can be automatically deposited into your checking or savings account on payday, giving you immediate access to your money.
Visit our Personal Service page to learn more about some of these services or contact us at 800-588-6805 to get started.
Service Solutions: Receive Documents and Make Payments on Time
On October 1, 2021 the United States Postal Service implemented new service standards for First Class Mail (you can read about the changes on the Service Standard Changes Fact Sheet from the USPS). While the majority of mail will not be impacted by these changes, we want to remind you about a few options we have available at KS StateBank that can help you receive documents quicker and ensure your loan and credit card payments are received on time.
E-Documents. You can get your account statements and other notices, such as tax documents, quickly and securely through your Online Banking account. Click the E-Statements tab in Online Banking to enroll or contact us at 800-588-6805.
Loan Payments. Make your loan payments easily and on time when you pay them online. Loan clients can find payment links on our website under the Login menu.
Credit Card Payments. KS StateBank Credit Card clients can also make payments online from our website. Links for personal credit card payments and 360Control for businesses can be found in your Online Banking account or under the Login menu on our website.
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, October 11 in observance of Columbus Day. We will reopen at our regular times on Tuesday, October 12.
Before You Wire Money
Scammers pressure you to wire money to them because it’s easy to take your money and disappear. Wiring money is like sending cash — once it’s gone, you probably can’t get it back. Never wire money to a stranger — no matter the reason they give.
Why Scammers Want You To Wire Money
If you need to send money to someone you know and trust, wiring money through your financial institution or companies like Western Union and MoneyGram can be a useful way to get money there quickly. But scammers also find wire transfers useful.
Scammers know that
- once you wire money to them, there’s usually no way to get your money back
- they can pick up your money at any of the wire transfer company’s locations
- it’s nearly impossible to identify who picked up the money, or track them down
Never wire money to anyone
- you haven’t met in person
- who says they work at a government agency like the IRS, SSA, or a well-known company
- who pressures you into paying immediately
- who says a wire transfer is the only way you can pay
Also don’t wire money to someone who tries to sell you something over the phone. Not only will you not have the same protections you would paying with a credit card, but it’s illegal for a telemarketer to ask you to pay with a wire transfer, like those with MoneyGram and Western Union. Report them if they ask you to pay this way.
Spot the Scam
Here are some common ways scammers try to convince people to wire money:
Fake Check Scams
Someone sends you a check and tells you to deposit it. They tell you to wire some or all of the money back to them — or to another person. The money appears in your bank account, so you do it. But the check is fake. It can take weeks for the bank to figure it out, but when it does, the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew.
Scammers make up lots of stories to try to convince you to deposit a check and wire money:
- Scammers say you’ve won a prize and need to wire money back to cover taxes and fees.
- Scammers say it’s part of a mystery shopping assignment to evaluate a wire transfer service.
- Scammers overpay you for something you’re selling online, then ask you to wire back the extra money.
- Scammers say you got a job you applied for, send you a check to buy supplies, but tell you to wire back part of the money.
Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps. They strike up a relationship with you and work to build your trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story — like saying they have an emergency — and ask for money. A romance scammer might also contact you through social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts.
Family Emergency Scams
You get an unexpected call from someone who pretends to be a friend or relative. They say they need cash for an emergency and beg you to wire money right away. They might say they need your help to get out of jail, pay a hospital bill, or leave a foreign country. They often ask you not to tell anyone in your family. Their goal is to trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam.
Apartment Rental Scams
You respond to an ad for an apartment with surprisingly low rent. Before you’ve even seen the apartment, you apply and are told to wire money — maybe for an application fee, security deposit, or the first month’s rent. After you wire the money, you find out that there is no apartment for rent, or that the scammer put their contact information on someone else’s photo or rental ad. Scammers run a similar scam with vacation rentals.
What To Do If You Wired Money to a Scammer
- If you sent money using a wire transfer company like MoneyGram or Western Union, contact that company right away. Tell them it was a fraudulent transfer. Ask them to reverse the wire transfer and give you your money back.
- MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947)
- Western Union at 1-800-325-6000
- If you sent the wire transfer through your bank, contact them and report the fraudulent transfer. Ask if they can reverse the wire transfer and give you your money back.
If a scammer asked you to wire money, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Information for this article was provided by the Federal Trade Commission.
How to Pay for College on Your Own
You know you want to go to college. That's great. You might even know what you want to study. Even better. But there's one very important thing you might not know yet: How you will pay for it.
Let's face it, college isn't cheap. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 school year was $11,171 for state public colleges and $41,411 for private institutions.
That's difficult for most households to manage. But what if you're on your own when it comes to paying for college? What options are available to you?
The good news is you do have some options, which include:
Financial Aid. You may be eligible for grants, lower-interest loans, and other aid through the federal government or colleges. To determine your eligibility, you'll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA as it's known on the street. On the FAFSA, you'll be asked to provide information on your personal and financial information to determine how much aid you could receive.
Scholarships. There are a variety of scholarships available from colleges as well as local community organizations. If you have a strong academic track record, are involved in the community, or have a particular talent, such as sports or music, you'll improve your chances of getting a scholarship. To find scholarships, check with the college you plan on attending.
Student loans. After you receive your financial aid package, you'll likely have additional money to pay. You can obtain a private loan from a lender, which will help you bridge the gap between financial aid and the cost of the school. Because private loans are provided by lenders and not the federal government, you'll need to meet some income and credit guidelines to qualify. If you don't meet them, you can apply with a co-signer.
Smart school choices. Though college is expensive, there are ways you can help defray some of the costs. You can choose a less expensive school or to live at home versus paying for room and board. Some students start in community colleges, which offer lower tuition. If you go that route, you can transfer to a four-year school after you graduate. You can also save on books by purchasing used books.
Work study/part-time job. If you can find the time from your studies, consider getting a part-time job that allows you to earn money while in school, such as work study. Your work study job could be on campus or in the community depending on the opportunity available to you. Eligibility for work study is based on filling out the FAFSA. If you don't quality for work study, you can still try and find a part-time job at an employer near your school.
The most important step you can take is to start saving for college before you enroll. Saving isn't always easy, but it's the smartest investment you can make in your future.
What's Your Net Worth? Why it Pays to Know the Answer
"What's your net worth?"
It's certainly not a question you want to pose to others. But it is one that you need to ask yourself throughout your life.
To answer it you need to fully understand what net worth actually means. In accounting terms, net worth is the sum of your assets minus the sum of your liabilities. In layman's terms, it's the difference between what you own versus what you owe. Essentially, it's the money you have left if you were to sell everything you own.
If you have money left over, you have positive net worth. If you still owe money, you have negative net worth.
Why knowing your net worth is important
So other than using the term to impress your friends with, why is it important to understand net worth?
In short, it gives you greater insights into your financial picture at any point in time. That can help you understand your spending and help you determine ways to lower your debt and maximize savings. It can also help you get on track to reach your short- and long-term financial goals, such as buying a home or retiring.
What makes up your net worth
You don't have to be a mathematical guru to calculate your net worth. You do, however, have be able to identify your assets (what you own) and your liabilities (what you owe).
In general, your assets include your bank, investment, and retirement accounts and things that can be easily converted to cash, such as your home, car, jewelry, art, or other personal property.
In contrast, your liabilities include things like your mortgage, credit cards, student loans, auto loans, medical bills, or other debt that you owe.
How to calculate your net worth
Although the actual math you need to perform is simple, the challenge is determining the value of property. The best advice is to research values and to be conservative in your valuations.
Once you have those numbers you can calculate your net worth with a simple formula: Total Assets – Total Liabilities = Net Worth
There are few ways you can calculate your net worth and online tools that make it easier, including some that allow you estimate the growth of your assets, such as this one available at Bankrate. You can also use our online financial management tool, My Money, found in your KS StateBank Online Banking account. My Money includes a net worth snapshot that helps you track your investments, wealth and debts all in one place.
Whatever method you use, you'll gain a greater understanding of where you stand financially at any point in time. And that right there is the key to taking control of your finances.
Spotting Elder Financial Abuse
Financial abuse can be a devastating form of elder abuse. If you're concerned about an older friend or relative, here are some things to consider.
To spot financial abuse, look for sudden changes in the older person’s financial situation, such as:
- Suspicious changes in wills or powers of attorney – Out of the blue, your grandfather wills all of his belongings to his new nurse.
- Financial activity the person couldn’t have done herself – You discover repeated ATM withdrawals from your bedridden mother’s bank account.
- Bills not being paid – When visiting a neighbor, you see mail piling up on his desk. Maybe his caregiver is using his money for something other than paying bills.
- Significant withdrawals or unusual purchases – You notice charges for fancy electronics on your thrifty aunt’s credit card bill.
If you see these signs and you’re worried that someone’s misusing a loved one’s personal information, IdentityTheft.gov explains what steps to take.
Often, older adults are in the best position to recognize and prevent elder abuse and scams. That’s why the FTC’s Pass It On gives older adults tools to start conversations about scams and pass on their knowledge.
If you think you see elder abuse, report it. If there’s immediate physical danger, call 911. Otherwise, contact Adult Protective Services (APS). Your long-term care ombudsman may be able to help, if the older person lives in a nursing home or assisted living. And if the financial abuse involves a scam, tell the FTC.
For more resources about elder abuse prevention, check out the U.S. Administration on Aging's Eldercare Locator website.
Information for this article was provided by the Federal Trade Commission.
Five Myths About Mortgages
From the list of terms to the array of loan choices, the mortgage process can seem overwhelming and complicated. It also doesn't help that there are a lot of misconceptions about mortgages. Here are five of the most common ones:
- You need perfect credit to apply for a mortgage. Having excellent credit can certainly make qualifying easier and help you get the best rate, but it's not a requirement. With most types of mortgages, you may only need to have a credit score of at least 620. And with a government-guaranteed mortgage, your credit score could be as low as 580. (Some lenders may have different minimum credit score requirements, so ask about the requirements when applying.) If you're worried about your credit, you could also have a co-signer on your loan.
- A pre-qualification is the same as a pre-approval. Don't let the "pre" fool you; these are two very different things. A pre-qualification is simply an estimate of how much you could borrow based on information you provide. With a pre-approval, a lender has actually verified your credit, income, and employment to conditionally approve you. A pre-approval can give you a negotiating edge with sellers because it shows that you are a qualified buyer. Ask your lender about which one they offer.
- Always choose a fixed-rate mortgage. Fixed-rate mortgages offer many benefits, including the predictability and peace of mind that your interest rate and payment won't rise. But depending on your situation, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) may be a good choice for you. With an ARM, your mortgage interest rate starts low and increases over time. So, if you expect your income to rise, you may want to choose an ARM, which would make your payments lower initially and allow you to qualify for a larger mortgage, since lenders consider the lower payment when making approval decisions. ARMs are also ideal if you plan to live in your home for only a few years.
- You need to put 20% down. This is one of the most common misconceptions primarily because a 20% down payment is required to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). But for the actual down payment required to purchase a home, you may be able to put as little as 3% down with many mortgages. Keep in mind that the less you put down, the higher your monthly payment will be. Also, you'll be required to pay PMI until you have 20% equity in the home.
- All mortgage lenders are the same. Thanks to the Internet, you have more lender choices than ever before. But, some are better than others. A good lender will help guide you through the process and help you choose the mortgage that's in your best interest. Before you select a lender, do some research or ask your friends, co-workers, or your realtor for recommendations.
Though there are many myths about mortgages, the fact is, you can make the process easier by doing your homework even before you apply.
*KS StateBank | NMLS ID 410602. Please note KS StateBank does not provide real estate brokerage services.
What to Know Before You Buy Something Online
Ahh, summer. Ten sweet yet short weeks to enjoy some of your favorite traditions. Maybe it’s sipping an ice cold drink on the porch, spending a weekend at the beach, or cooling off with the kids at the pool. Now that you think about it, you might decide to treat yourself to a new porch swing or a new beach umbrella. Or suddenly realize that you need to buy more goggles because the kids lost theirs…again. Before you start filling up your online shopping cart, we’ve got some tips you’ll want to check out (no pun intended!).
Do some comparison-shopping. Before you buy online, use the power of the internet to compare prices on different websites. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has tips about using comparison-shopping sites.
Think critically about online reviews. Reading other people’s opinions about a product can help you make a decision. But some reviews are downright fake or not completely honest. You may not know when a reviewer got something — like a free product — in exchange for the review. Learn more about how to evaluate online reviews.
Pay attention to the details. Before you buy something online, know when it’ll ship and what to do if you want to return it. Read up on delivery, return, and refund policies.
Pay with a credit card if you can. That way, if you get billed twice for the same item, or you get billed for something you never got, you can dispute it. Learn more about the benefits of paying with a credit card.
Find out what personal information shopping apps collect. Shopping apps might give you exclusive deals or rewards points. But they might also take your personal information, like your name, phone number, and email. And they might use your device’s location. Here’s what to know if you’re using a shopping app.
If you spot this or any other scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Information for this article was provided by the Federal Trade Commission.
Are Your Kids Leaving the Nest?
Graduation season is wrapping up and many young adults are beginning their careers. This is a good time to talk to them about starting to save early for retirement and the importance of preparing for financial emergencies.
What should you tell them about saving and investing? Here are a few discussion points you can use.
A great place to save and invest money you earn is in a Roth IRA.
- If your children have jobs, encourage them to open Roth individual retirement accounts.
- Explain that interest in a Roth IRA grows tax-free for life.
- Experiment with different amounts of savings and interest rates. Use a compound interest calculator at investor.gov.
- Use the "Rule of 72" to estimate how many years it would take to double your money. If you invest in an account that earns 8 percent interest, you'll double your money in nine years (72 divided by 8 is 9).
- Explain to your child that once he starts a job, he may be offered a similar account at work called a 401(k). In a 401k, he can deposit pre-tax dollars through a payroll deduction. Some employers may even provide matching contributions. The money in the account generally won't be taxed until it's withdrawn.
When investing, consider the risks and the annual expenses.
- Invest in an IRA or a 401(k) as soon as you have some income.
- Putting all your eggs in one basket can be a risky way to invest; consider a diverse mix of stocks, bonds, and cash.
- Compare mutual fund costs: An "annual expense ratio" of 1.5 percent instead of 0.5 percent on a $1,000 investment could cost you almost $2,000 over the course of 35 years.
- Ask about index funds, which tend to have low annual fees.
- Think about your goals. Attending college? Buying a home in 10 years? Purchasing a car in five? Define two financial goals for the long-term future, and make a plan to achieve them.
It's important to save for emergencies.
- Financial emergencies will happen; it's only a matter of when. Be prepared by starting a savings account to handle repairs, replacements, sudden trips, job loss, etc.
- Some experts suggest saving three to six months' worth of expenses. If this seems too difficult, start by looking back at some recent financial emergencies. Set a savings goal you think will meet your urgent needs. When you reach that goal, aim higher.
- Keep your money in a safe place, like a federally insured bank or credit union.
Take a New Look at Your Money Habits
With the travel industry lifting restrictions, and businesses and schools beginning to open again, it creates a feeling of starting fresh and encourages us to set new goals. Setting new financial goals should be on the top of our lists. As you reflect on the past year, focus on your experiences – build on what worked and what didn’t – to shape this year’s money habits. Here are some ideas to consider as you set your financial goals.
New Savings Account
Think about what you want to save for the coming year and commit to opening a savings account to reach that goal, whether it’s creating an emergency fund or setting money aside for your kids’ future college tuition. There are many types of savings accounts available to save for both short term and long term goals.
Small Step: Decide on the type of savings account that will meet your goal and commit to depositing a set amount on a regular basis to get into the habit of saving. For example, if you open a basic savings account, deposit $25 every month and sign up for direct deposit or automatic withdrawals from your checking account to ensure that amount is saved. Once you’re comfortable with saving a small amount consistently, you can increase it.
Pay Down That Old Debt
Confronting your debt and thinking about how to pay it off can be scary and overwhelming. Make a list of your debts, noting the monthly payment, current balance, and interest rate, and make a plan to start paying down the debts. Many experts recommend focusing on either debts with the highest interest rates or debts with the lowest balances to pay off. While you will likely save more money paying off debts with the highest interest rates, it may be faster to pay off the smallest balances first, and seeing this progress may help keep you motivated.
Small Step: Whichever method you choose for paying down debt, start by adding a small amount to one of your current payments. For instance, if you are focusing on paying off a credit card with a minimum monthly payment of $100, add $25 to that amount to start (for a total monthly payment of $125). Once you are comfortable with that new amount, add more when you’re able and stay focused on the goal.
Keeping your finances organized will help you control your money and achieve your financial goals. Some basic tasks to help you get organized include making a budget, tracking your spending, and putting a system in place to ensure you pay your bills on time every month. Be sure to monitor your credit card and bank statements for any unexpected fees or unusual activity too. The sooner you find mistakes or unauthorized transactions, the easier it is to correct those issues.
Small Step: Like dealing with debt, organizing your finances can be daunting, so start small by picking one organizational task and focus on that task for one month before adding another. For example, you might start by setting up automatic bill pay from your bank account in order to make sure your bills are paid on time. Give yourself one month to learn about it, set it up, and get comfortable using it. Next month, focus on creating a budget, which gives you several weeks to learn about budgeting and working on it.
Protect Your Money
With so many financial transactions occurring electronically, it’s important to proactively protect your personal information, including your credit card and bank account numbers. Take charge of protecting your money. Never provide your personal information in response to an unsolicited request, whether it is over the phone or over the Internet. Always track your bank and credit card statements and your credit reports for unusual activity. Catching abnormal transactions early will allow you to take steps to prevent more harm if your information has been stolen.
Small Step: One important step to protect yourself from online scams and theft is to change your passwords regularly. If you have been using the same passwords for your financial accounts for a while, create new, difficult-to-guess passwords and change them often to keep your money safe.
(Article provided by FDIC Consumer News)
Key Steps for Buying a Home
A roomy condominium with lake views. A quaint Cape Cod in a great neighborhood. A spacious contemporary with a bright home office. If you're starting the process of buying a home, you may be fantasizing about the perfect home. But, as homeowners know, there's a lot more to the process than just finding the right home. You have to make it yours.
Here are five important steps you can take to make that happen:
- Get your credit in order. Having good credit is essential to getting approved for a mortgage and helping you secure the best interest rate. That's why it's important to understand, review, and manage your credit even before you apply for a mortgage. You should start by obtaining your credit report. You're actually entitled to receive a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. To access these reports, visit AnnualCreditReport.com. Because your credit plays an important role in the mortgage process, you'll want to pay any overdue balances, dispute any errors, and even wait to apply for a mortgage until you improve your credit. With most lenders, you'll need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional mortgage.
- Determine how much home you can afford. Before you start shopping for a home, you'll need to figure out how much you can afford. You can easily determine this by using mortgage calculators available online. You'll be asked to provide some information, including your income, total debt, and the amount of your down payment.
- Shop online. The pandemic has impacted the way people shop for homes. To ensure your safety and make home shopping convenient, take advantage of online real estate sites. Many offer virtual tours that let you take a closer look at homes before you make appointments to see them.
- Get pre-qualified for a mortgage. As more people have opted to stay at home, the inventory for homes for sale is low. That makes the market extraordinarily competitive. One way to gain a competitive advantage is to get pre-qualified. A pre-qualification is conditional based on your credit. It can give you a valuable negotiating edge, informing sellers that you are a serious buyer.
- Be realistic. Before you begin shopping for your home, set a budget. While it may be tempting to spend more than your budget, you don't want to put yourself in a situation where you are "house poor" and can't afford to do the activities you love to do. Though you may have a long list of features you want in a home, you may have to prioritize them to stay within your budget.
Taking these steps before you shop for a home will help you save time and make the "perfect" home yours.
*KS StateBank | NMLS ID 410602. Please note KS StateBank does not provide real estate brokerage services.
Smart Financial Moves to Make in Your 20s
Your 20s is one of the most exciting times of your life – and you want to make the most of it. It's also a great time to make the most of your money and start working toward your short- and long-term financial goals.
Here are a few smart financial moves you can make in your 20s for a brighter financial future:
- Build your credit score. A good credit score is essential in securing the affordable financing you need to reach your goals later on in life, such as buying a home. You can accomplish that by paying your bills on time, catching up on overdue balances, and avoiding opening multiple credit accounts and running up high balances. You should also monitor your credit regularly to check for errors and fraud.
- Set a budget. The most important step in building financial security and independence is creating a budget. Start by tracking all your spending each month. This includes your regular bills, such as your rent, car payment, cell phone, etc., as well as money you spend on food, entertainment, and other activities. Once you know all your expenses, create a monthly budget on a spreadsheet or a budget app to assign dollar amounts for each spending category. When making your budget, think about what expenses you could eliminate or reduce – and always allow a line item for saving money. My Money is a free financial management tool offered by KS StateBank that can help you create a budget, track your spending and set goals. Just look for the My Money tab in your Online Banking account to get started.
- Build an emergency fund. One thing you will need at every stage of your life is an emergency fund. Because let's face it, life is unpredictable and you never know if you might experience a job loss, illness, or even a global pandemic that would impact your income. To make saving easier, set up automatic transfers from checking to savings.
- Establish a plan for repaying debt. With the high cost of tuition, you may very well have accumulated student loan or other debt. Try to establish a plan for paying off your debt sooner either by consolidating your debt or putting more money on the principal by making extra or larger payments.
- Save for retirement. Okay, it's hard to think about retirement when you're just building your career, but you actually have a great advantage on your side – time. With the power of compounding interest, you can build your retirement savings considerably if you start when you're young. If your company offers a 401(k) or other retirement plan, contribute to it, especially if they offer a matching contribution. Even if you have to start small, get in the habit of saving for retirement regularly.
You definitely want to enjoy this amazing time in your life. But there's no reason why you can't do that and enjoy the rewards of building a strong financial future in the process.
Make the Most of Your Tax Refund
The tax season is winding down and millions of Americans will be receiving their tax refund soon, if they haven’t already. Using your tax refund wisely can bolster your financial security, and having a plan in place for your refund will reduce the temptation to spend that money on things you really don’t need. We’re highlighting some tips to help you make the best use of your tax refund.
- Create a safety net. Too many people do not have enough money in savings to cover a $400 emergency. Your tax refund can be used for a dedicated emergency fund that will cover you in a crunch. 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 down debts. Dedicate some of your tax refund to lowering any existing debt, such as credit card debt. Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or by eliminating smaller debt first. You can also make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loans each year to save money on interest while reducing the term of your loans.
- Save for your child’s education or future health expenses. Look into opening a tax-advantaged 529 education savings plan to ensure school expenses will be covered when your child reaches college age. Or save for future health expenses with tax-free dollars by investing in a Health Savings Account.
- Grow your money with bonds. Invest safely with U.S. savings bonds or municipal bonds. The U.S. Treasury allows for savings bonds to be purchased using your tax refund for as little as $50. Savings bonds earn interest for a maximum of 30 years.
- Make home improvements. 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, especially if they qualify for tax credits. If you have more substantial renovations in mind, your bank can help with a home equity line of credit.
- Donate to Charity. The benefit is two-fold: Giving to charity will make a difference in your community, and you can also claim the tax deduction, if you itemize.
How to Spot, Stop and Report Government Imposter Scams
The American Bankers Association Foundation and the Federal Trade Commission have released information highlighting the problem of government imposter scams. In 2020, 498,000 imposter scams were reported to the FTC by consumers and nearly one in five reported losing money, with reported losses totaling nearly $1.2 billion. Almost one-third of the scams involved someone posing as a government representative.
In imposter scams, scammers will typically call, email, text or direct message consumers on social media, often claiming that back taxes are owed or that jury duty was missed and threatening victims with fines or arrest. Some scammers claim that Social Security or Medicare benefits are being withheld due to COVID-19, in an attempt to trick victims into clicking on a link or handing over personal information.
The information below provides tips on how to spot these potential scams and how to report them.
How to Spot the Scam
- Scammers will call, email, text, or direct message you on social media.
- Scammers say you did not appear for jury duty and must pay a fine or you will be arrested.
- Scammers say you will be fined, arrested, or deported if you do not pay taxes or some other debt right away.
- Scammers say your Social Security or Medicare benefits have been suspended because of COVID-19-related office closures.
- Scammers say you can get a free COVID-19 test kit from Medicare in exchange for giving personal or financial information.
- Scammers say you owe back taxes, there is a problem with your return, or please verify your information.
These are all scams!
How to Stop and Report the Scam
- Don’t give information or money to anyone who calls, texts, emails, or direct messages you on social media. Keep your Social Security, bank account, debit and credit card numbers to yourself.
- Never make a payment to someone you don’t know, especially by gift card, mobile payment apps, money transfer, or cryptocurrency. Only scammers will demand you pay that way. They know these payments are hard to reverse.
- When in doubt, check it out. If you’re concerned about the request, contact the agency directly. Look up the government agency’s real number on the agency’s site and call to get the story.
- Report the scam to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Tell your bank, and be sure to share these tips with your friends and family.
Learn more at ftc.gov/imposters and aba.com/consumers.
Safer Online Shopping is in Your Hands
There's no doubt about it; online shopping offers an easy and convenient way to get the things you need. It does, however, need to offer you more like peace of mind and security. Here are some smart steps you can take to make your online shopping experience more secure and reduce the risk of fraud.
- Shop with brands you know and trust. The Internet has brought a world of shopping opportunities right to us. Unfortunately, it's also brought disreputable retailers that may be looking to defraud you. To protect yourself, shop with companies you know and trust, and carefully review online reviews before you purchase anything.
- Don't shop with public WiFi. Online shopping requires you to share sensitive information, such as your credit card number. That, can make you susceptible to hackers on public networks. If possible, use a virtual private network (VPN) when shopping.
- Make sure the retailer's website is secure. You only want to shop on websites that use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. To ensure you're on a site with SSL, verify that the URL begins with "https," not just "http." In addition, if a website is secure, you will see a little lock in the address bar on your browser.
- Set strong passwords. The passwords you use to log in to online retailers should be difficult to guess and should include a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, if possible. Try to avoid using birthdays, pet names, addresses, and sequences, such as "12345" or "abcde." Change your passwords regularly and never share them with anyone.
- Monitor your account activity. Services like online and mobile banking make it easy to review your account activity any time. You can also use them to set transaction alerts, so you can get notified when transactions have been made on your credit or debit cards.
- Run anti-virus software on your devices. Also, be sure to download software updates to ensure your devices have the latest security protection.
- Beware of phishing scams. Don't click on links from retailers. Instead, go directly to the sites you know and trust.
By taking these precautions, you'll help ensure a convenient and safe way to shop.
Emotions Aside, How to Choose the Right Home
When buying a home, it is easy to get caught up in emotions. You fall in love with the new kitchen or giant yard, but the largest purchase for most people requires some objective consideration. The best way to determine if a house has the potential to be your dream home is to visually apply your daily life to it.
Just another day
Picture yourself living in the home on a typical day in your life.
Everyday living: Where do you prepare and eat meals? Is there space for everyone to gather together? How about apart? Do you need an area for a hobby or for large holiday gatherings? Where do you pay your bills and file important documents? If you have school age children, where will they do their homework?
Entertainment: If you entertain, do you typically invite a large group or prefer more intimate gatherings? Where will you set up your television, sound system and computer? Is special wiring required? Do you have a hobby that requires separate space? Do one or more family members take a daily run or use exercise equipment indoors? If so, where would these things take place?
Maintenance: What will require additional time or money for maintenance? Can you clean the house on your own or will you need to employ a cleaning service? Are there carpets that will need regular cleaning? What about the heating and/or cooling systems? Will you have to paint the exterior or does it have siding? Is there a pool? Does the yard require lawn maintenance?
Outside: If you like to spend time outdoors is there space for eating, entertaining or just relaxing? Is there a patio? What is the sun exposure? Are there trees to shade the house in the summer? Are they well maintained to allow light and air to circulate? What will autumn raking entail? How about winter shoveling? How much maintenance will be required?
Household tasks and local activities
Once you determine a house is ideal for your family's way of living, think about where you need to go when you pull out of the driveway.
Are there a grocery and hardware store, library, farmers' market, or other retailers and service providers you and your family use regularly near this home? If your children are currently enrolled in sports and activities, can they continue or will you have to find new ones? Are there families nearby to carpool with? Will children have to change schools?
Making your decision
Create a check list of things that matter to you and rate each home you're considering by these criteria. It will be easier to keep your emotions in check using this type of unbiased tool.
Finally, the object of your desire may look different after you step away. Take these tips into consideration and be sure to sleep on it before making a commitment.
*KS StateBank | NMLS ID 410602. Please note KS StateBank does not provide real estate brokerage services.
Easy Ways to Organize Your Finances
You can't control everything in life. We've all learned that lesson during the global pandemic. But even though we can't predict the challenges or even opportunities we might encounter on the road of life, we can take some steps to remain in the driver's seat, particularly with our finances.
One way to accomplish that is by getting financially organized. Organizing your finances can help you stay focused on your goals, increase productivity and success, save time, and of course, reduce stress. So how can you get started? Here are some tips:
- Bring together your finances. There are many aspects to your financial life; you have your credit accounts, bank accounts, insurance, and retirement accounts. Gather all your financial information and create files either on your computer or in a filing cabinet. You can also create a spreadsheet that documents all your assets and liabilities. If you receive paper statements, put them into binders organized by date and type of information.
- Create a budget. Budgeting is the key to saving. To create your budget, make a list of your monthly income and expenses. Be sure to include all expenses, such as your rent or mortgage, credit card payments, utilities, monthly subscriptions, and fun and entertainment costs. Also, include monthly savings in your budget.
- Track your spending. A budget is only effective if you follow it. Use a spreadsheet or budgeting app to track your actual spending each month. If you're over budget, you'll have to find ways to decrease your spending. For example, can you save money by eating at home versus dining out? Make adjustments in your app or spreadsheet as needed.
- Save automatically. They say you should always pay yourself first. Automating savings makes accomplishing that even easier. You can specify the amount you wish to save, the frequency, and the date you want funds deposited.
- Organize your bills. Bills are just a part of life. The most important thing is to stay on top of them since late or missed payments can result in costly fees and negatively impact your credit. Make a list of your monthly bills and due dates. To simplify bill payment, consider using online bill payment and setting up recurring payments.
- Check your accounts regularly. Thanks to technology, monitoring your accounts is easier than ever. With online and mobile banking, you can set and receive alerts to notify you about specific account transactions or balance levels. Monitoring your accounts can also help you avoid overdrafts, stay on track for your goals, and even spot fraudulent transactions.
- Set and document your financial goals. Think about what you'd like to accomplish in the short and long term and then write those goals down. Then, determine what you'll need to do to achieve them. For example, if you want to buy a home in five years, how much money will you need to save each month for the down payment? When you determine that, add it to your budget and track your progress.
Our free online financial management tool, My Money, makes it easier to stay on track, set goals, and maintain your finances. You can create a budget, organize your personal finances, and set savings goals. Look for the My Money tab in your KS StateBank Online Banking to get started.
By taking these steps, you'll be better prepared financially for the road of life – no matter where it leads you.
Smart Ways to Choose a College Virtually
If you're a parent, you want to help your children make the right decisions. That includes one of the most important decisions they may make – choosing the right college. As part of that decision-making process, students and parents will often take advantage of a valuable opportunity – college visits. However, due to travel, financial, or safety concerns, an in-person visit may not be a viable option today.
Fortunately, there are some convenient ways you and your child can get the information you need to make a decision – without even leaving your home. These include:
- Visiting college websites. If you want to learn more about the programs and activities offered at a particular college, start by visiting the school's website. You can read about degree programs offered, admissions requirements, student population, as well as facilities and activities offered.
- Taking online tours. Thanks to technology, you can bring the campus right to you with a virtual tour offered by many colleges and universities. A virtual tour will allow you and your child to go inside campus facilities, including dorm rooms, dining areas, and classrooms. You can usually find the tour right on the college's website. Or you can visit sites such as CampusTours.com, which feature tours for colleges throughout the country.
- Getting social. If you want to get a sense for the culture or student population of a particular college, visit the school's social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. You can read about and see events on campus to get a sense for campus and academic life.
- Interview current students or alumni. What better way to find out about campus life or a particular academic program than to ask a student who's experienced it? Use your social networks, including LinkedIn to connect with others who have attended the college. For example, you may ask a current student if kids stay around on the weekends or go home. Or you could ask alumni about the career opportunities they had post-graduation.
- Setting up a virtual meeting with Admissions. To help students learn more about financial aid, housing, or admission deadlines, many colleges offer virtual interviews via programs like Zoom. Make sure your child dresses professionally and prepares questions in advance to make the most of the meeting.
By doing a little homework even before they get to school, your child can take an important step toward a brighter future.
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, February 15 in observance of Presidents Day. We will reopen during regular hours on Tuesday, February 16.
Stay Alert to COVID-19 Vaccine Related Scams
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued two emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. While this is encouraging news, it unfortunately means there is potential for fraud or other similar criminal activity related to the vaccines and their distribution.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has warned, “COVID-19 vaccine fraud may include the sale of unapproved and illegally marketed vaccines, the sale of counterfeit versions of the approved vaccines, and illegal diversion of legitimate vaccines. Already, fraudsters have offered, for a fee, to provide potential victims the vaccine sooner than permitted under the applicable vaccine distribution plan.”
Here’s what you need to know to avoid a vaccine-related scam:
- You likely will not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine during this public health emergency.
- You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
- You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine.
- No one from a vaccine distribution site or health care payer, like a private insurance company, will call you asking for your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account information to sign you up to get the vaccine.
- Beware of providers offering other products, treatments, or medicines to prevent the virus. Check with your health care provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment.
If you get a call, text, email — or even someone knocking on your door — claiming they can get you early access to the vaccine, STOP. That’s a scam. Don’t pay for a promise of vaccine access or share personal information. Instead, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov or file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general through consumerresources.org, the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Learn more about coronavirus related scams at ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams.
Information for this article was provided by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Federal Trade Commission.
Five Steps to Dig Out of Holiday Debt
It's a holiday leftover many of us carry around for months. It's not Aunt Edna's fruitcake or even those few extra pounds amassed from all the holiday treats. It's the excess credit card debt that comes from spending more than you can afford during the holiday season. Unfortunately, for many Americans, a few festive days of the year can result in mounds of depressing debt that can take months to shed.
If you find yourself with leftover holiday debt, here are some steps you can take:
Stop the credit storm. If you can't purchase something with cash or your debit card, don't buy it. While it's important to have credit cards for emergencies, it's a good idea to put them on ice until you pay down your debt.
Start digging out. On your credit card statement is the minimum payment amount you must make each month to cover finance charges. Always pay more than that amount. The more you pay, the faster you will pay down your balance. If you have multiple credit card accounts, focus on paying off the ones with the highest interest rates first.
Consolidate higher-interest debt. Many credit card companies offer attractive balance transfer offers that come with low teaser rates, allowing you to transfer higher-interest balances to save on interest. Be sure to read the fine print so you know when the introductory rate expires and what the prevailing rate will be. It's also critical to close the accounts from which you transferred the debt. Many people make the mistake of keeping those cards and running up new balances, creating even more debt.
Minimize your other spending. Take a close look at your monthly budget and see if you can cut your spending in other areas in order to pay more on your credit card debt. If you have the opportunity to make more money, either by picking up more hours at work or getting a second job, consider putting excess funds on your credit card debt.
Stay the course. While it can be overwhelming to look at the debt you owe, the most important thing you can do is keep making payments. If you keep digging, you're sure to see a clear path toward credit card debt freedom.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
All KS StateBank branches and offices will be closed on Monday, January 18 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We will reopen during regular hours on Tuesday, January 19.
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