5 Financially Savvy Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

Taxes

Getting your taxes done early not only takes one more thing off your to-do list but further allows you to start planning for the future. Working with your tax professional, determine how much your family may receive this year from a tax refund. No matter the amount, we recommend putting it towards your financial goals for the year. Here are some great strategies we’ve tried to get the best bang for our buck:

  1. Max out your 401(k) or Traditional IRA contributions. If you aren’t taking advantage of one of these two accounts, we highly suggest opening one! These tax-beneficial accounts help holders accumulate and grow their funds without the burden of tax at the time of deposit. Each account, however, is limited by how much you can contribute. By allocating funds into these account types it may not only help you save for retirement, but also allow your money to mature throughout the years, with no additional effort.
  2. Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loan. Paying down your loan is always a great option when selecting financial goals. In the case of a mortgage, you earn more equity as you pay, while with student loans, you gain more momentum towards financial freedom. Instead of adding money to each monthly installment, we recommend creating one lump payment. By doing this you can create a single but large decrease in your principal amount owed, drastically reducing your associated interest as well.
  3. Save for the 2017 holiday season. While holiday events, family gatherings, and memories are held dear, the burden of the season can pose potential problems for your personal finances. If you struggled saving last year, now is the perfect time to set aside funds for the holidays. Determine how much you need to pay for each aspect of your seasonal activities, and save as much as possible in a separate account from your tax refund. If additional funds are needed, automate your savings to transfer a specific dollar amount into this account each month.
  4. Pay off outstanding credit card debt. With one of the highest interest rates, credit cards are notorious for taking years to pay off. If you want to make a dent in your debt, we recommend tackling one card at a time.  Using your tax refund, see if you can eliminate smaller debts first, then with the remaining funds, begin paying down each additional credit card. By paying off the card with the least amount of debt first, you can begin to snowball your way to financial freedom!
  5. Start saving for a vacation. Whether it’s a spring break, a summer adventure, or a fall festival, it’s never too early to start saving. Once you have determined a destination, you can then create a rough budget of the expected expenses. Depending on your refund you may be able to pay for the whole trip outright, or you may need to supplement the funds with some additional monthly savings. No matter how you choose to save, we recommend keeping your vacation funds in a separate deposit account so you’re not tempted to use them throughout the year.

If you still have questions on how to best use your tax refund, our personal bankers would love to help. At First Security State Bank, we can assist you in coordinating all your accounts to help make the most of your money. Stop in and see us today!

 

The Cost of Kids: How to Plan for Your Growing Family

Managing Money

At First Security State Bank we understand that adding to your family may not only be an emotional decision but a financial one as well. With the growing costs of childcare alone, it’s important to have a well-rounded plan for covering the expenses of your expanding household. In order to plan most effectively, we recommend structuring your budgeting into these three stages:

 

Beginning or Before Pregnancy: Examine your current health insurance to determine an estimate of cost for both prenatal care and delivery expenses. While many insurers offer prenatal care at no or little additional cost, the price for delivery can be complex. Study your monthly premium, annual deductible, and out-of-pocket limits for the calendar year to help establish these costs before the baby is delivered.

 

After Birth: Once the baby is born, there will be traditional costs such as health care, food, diapers, clothing, and more. However, many new parents also spend more on take-out meals to help lessen their time cooking. These expenses, along with a decrease in income for parents on maternity leave, can cause many parents to slide into debt. To help alleviate the burden of these growing figures, we recommend creating a monthly budget to designate every dollar to a purpose. By allocating a specific dollar amount to each area of your spending, you can ensure that all of your costs are covered while also planning for the future.

 

During the First Year: As your child continues to grow, the costs for new clothes and equipment will continue to grow with them. Many expectant parents can spend upwards of $16,000 during the first year of their child’s life, and variables such as location, number of children, and other factors can contribute to the overall costs as well. When possible we recommend saving for each step in your child’s growth. From birth to three month’s they’ll need many one-time purchases, but during the later stages, you may have adequate time to save for each time period’s necessities.
Continue to grow your finances as you grow your family using First Security State Bank’s trusted deposit services. We’ll help you organize your funds, and make the most of your savings.

The Best Deal for Your Drive

Consumer Lending

Purchasing a new vehicle is an exciting milestone in your personal finances. Filled with countless decisions, finding the perfect price can at times feel like an uphill battle. Luckily First Security State Bank is here to help you find the ideal drive while staying between the lines of your budget.

 

If you’re looking for a used vehicle:

There are four things to take into account when purchasing a car or truck that has been previously owned. In most instances, you can request a full history report on the car to help answer the following prompts.

  • Miles v. Year
    • While purchasing a car that is over four years old can be economical, it can often times come with high mileage as well. For the best return on investment, we recommend finding a car with a comfortable number of miles that is still equipped with the functionalities and safety features you desire from newer models.
  • History of Repairs
    • A full report of a used vehicle is a must! This important document will cover the car’s history and allow you to identify potential warning signs. If reported collisions appear frequently it may result in additional monthly maintenance fees. However, if the previous owner had a consistent service history, your vehicle should last you well into the future.
  • Budget Friendly
    • Used cars will typically have a lower price point than many new makes and models. This can be a valuable money-saver, however, it’s still paramount to find a cost-effective vehicle to fit your needs. We suggest working with dealers to find an option that meets your basic criteria and comes in under budget. By having some cushion with the cost, you can ensure there are funds still available, in the event of possible maintenance or repairs.

 

If you’re looking for a new vehicle:

There’s nothing like that new car smell. Purchasing a vehicle with no prior owners certainly has its benefits. From new industry updates, upgraded entertainment options, and advanced safety options, there are a variety of things to focus on when selecting your new ride. However, we recommend taking the following points into account:

  • Safety and Technology Features
    • Things like a rearview camera and four-wheel drive can make a big impact on your personal safety. In addition to the ever-changing technological features, these advancements can help make you and your family feel more secure. We recommend making a list of the vehicle features that are important to you. Be sure to bring it along whenever you browse for potential matches.
  • Room to Grow
    • New vehicles have the potential for a long lifespan. When purchasing your next ride, be sure to plan for future milestones along the way. If you plan on growing your family or venturing across the states, keep those goals in mind when choosing the best vehicle for you.
  • Affordable Payment Options
    • Many dealers work with trusted local lenders, like First Security State Bank to help their customers secure the financing they need for both new and used vehicles. When purchasing a car or truck, remember to select payment options that fit into your monthly budget, while still allowing room for flexible spending.

Whether you’re searching for a new pickup or a used hybrid, First Security State Bank is excited to help make your car buying dreams a reality. Stop by today to speak with one of our experienced consumer lenders, and see what type of vehicle can fit into your monthly budget.

Which Subscription Service is Worth Your Money?

Savings

The concept of subscription packages aren’t going away anytime soon! Offering the convenience of shipping, and the added surprise of finding out what’s inside, these clever subscription services keep you wanting more. With so many to choose from, how do you know which box is a worthwhile spend for your family? At First Security State Bank, we’re excited to share our favorite options, and how they can help improve your budget:

Blue Apron: Out of all the make your own meal plans, this one by far stands apart! With plans as low as $8.74 per serving, these step-by-step culinary creations can not only help you eat better, but spend better as well! Reduce wasted money and food with their pre-portioned delivery system – and shipping is always free!

Bark Box: For all your furry friends, this box will have them waiting for the mailman every month! At $20 a month for a year long subscription, these fun-filled packages are stocked with nutritious treats and toys for your pup to enjoy. Check out their BarkShop page too, and see if your dog is a fit perfect for their Destroyer’s Club!

Dollar Shave Club: This popular grooming subscription is the perfect fit for men and women seeking a smooth shave. With options starting as low as $3 a month, this offer makes it simple to always have a fresh blade when you need one. If you do choose to upgrade, your product ships for free! Give it a try for a month, and adjust your shipments as needed, depending on how quickly you use the razors.

Birchbox: A traveling beauty bar for both men and women, this monthly subscription provides samples straight to your door for $10-20 each month. Complete with added membership pricing, and special offers, these little boxes pack a punch! If you discover products you simply cannot live without, simply go to their website, and select the full size version to purchase.

Raw Spice Bar: Eager cooks unite behind this affordable and delicious small batch spice subscription. Each month, they send professional and home cooks alike a mix of three regional spice blends. See how much you can grow your palette for only $8 a month!

Graze: Staying healthy can sometimes feel like a chore, especially while you’re working. Take the struggle out of hunting down those nutritious nibbles, and let graze do the shopping for you. For the low cost of $11.99 a month, you will receive 8 pre chosen snacks delivered straight to your home or office, and shipping is already included!

Gamefly: Video game addicts rejoice! Finally, there is a monthly subscription that allows you to play video games and rent movies at a low monthly cost! Starting at $15.95 you can rent one game each month with the option to return it at any time for a new game to rent. There are no late fees, and you can cancel at any time! Or for only $10 a month, you can live stream games straight to your home, 24/7!

Texture: No more magazine racks to clutter up your home, get the newest and latest news straight on your device with Texture’s digital monthly subscription. Offering the hottest magazines in every industry, this convenient service allows you to read the latest issue without the clutter of pages.

LootCrate: Allow your inner geek to celebrate for these gamer and movie centric crates! At a bargain of only $13.95 a month plus shipping and handling, these bountiful boxes offer one wearable item, a t-shirt, vinyl figure, comic book, household item, and utility item in every shipment! What are you waiting for? Sign up today.

Tasting Room: Nothing says relaxation like a satisfying glass of wine. Enjoy a bottle of your favorite flavors each month, through this interactive monthly tasting subscription. After the initial $9.95 tasting assessment of six personal-sized bottles, users are able to order wines to fit their personal tastes for approximately $15 a bottle.

Whichever box has begun to peak your interest, be sure to evaluate your family’s monthly budget to determine if it’s the perfect match for you.

Teaching Your Children the Meaning of Giving

Seasonal Giving

The holiday season is all about giving. Whether it’s through time, labor, or funds, philanthropy is the spirit of the season. This December, help your little one’s understand the power of giving with these three lessons, courtesy of First Security State Bank:

 

  1. Help Yourself by Helping Others

Did you know that every time you participate in “gift-giving behaviors,” your body releases positive chemicals in the brain? Referred to as a “Helper’s high,” these chemicals are released into the body while participating in perceived good deeds. The release of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin is the body’s way of physically boosting your spirits during these activities.  While helping others has great benefits for the recipients, one of the most impactful things you can do to boost your mood, is to lend a hand!

 

  1. The Gift of Time is the Most Precious

Throughout the winter months, try offering a gift more precious than presents, by helping a neighbor in need. Whether it’s shoveling the walkway or blowing snow from the driveway, these gestures can make a world of difference. If you know of a family struggling during the holidays, offer to bring home cooked meals to help them along the way. Sometimes we overlook the kindness in a small act, so this season, see what you can do instead of what you can give.

 

  1. Financial Education is Key

To better understand how much to give, you first need to understand how much you have. If you give your child a weekly allowance, create three jars for them to store it in. One marked save, one marked spend, the last marked give. (You can practice this same exercise using envelopes for your monthly budget.) Each “payday,” you and your child can deposit the amount you would like in each. Be sure to let your little one know that the save and give categories allow them to continually accumulate funds for bigger items, but the spend category is specifically to use that week. At the end of a month see where you both stand. If there are funds for the save and give jars, help them choose a great organization or purchase to make it worthwhile.

 

Sharing the love of giving with your child is the perfect way to teach them about many life lessons, including finances! For everything from balancing a budget, to automating savings, there are many financial lessons that can prepare you to give more. If you’d like to grow your giving potential, stop in today and we’ll help you make it happen!

 

Community Banking: Why It’s a Wonderful Life

Community Banking

As the seasons begin to change, and the holidays approach, our team at First Security State Bank, would like to share all the wonderful reasons we are grateful to be a community bank. Just like Mr. George Bailey, in the classic tale, It’s a Wonderful Life, we have found countless people and experiences that make our bank lucky to consider this community home:

It’s all About the People: Unlike the big banks of America, our small and locally-owned operation prides itself on putting our people first, making the success of our customers the bank’s number one priority. Just like the old Building and Loan, First Security State Bank strives to help our customers make their home ownership dreams become a reality.

Growth Engine for Small Business: We succeed when you succeed. Just as George Bailey invested funds in Mr. Martini’s home and business, First Security State Bank is here to offer advice and financing on your next home or commercial project. We want to help you and our hometown community grow, just like Bedford Falls.

Built on Long Lasting Relationships: The movie’s guardian Clarence, was a very wise man saying, “No man is a failure who has friends.” At First Security State Bank we pride ourselves on not only helping our customers with their finances, but also building relationships with them as well. If you have a question on how to budget, which retirement plans to look at, or other money management inquiries, consider us your friendly neighborhood adviser!

Community Backed: Instead of being underwritten by Mr. Potter, or other national big banks, our institution is built directly upon the needs and wants of our community’s citizens. With no higher ups attempting to monopolize the town, our dedicated team of officers works to build up the community, and the men and women who call it home.

Employees Local Citizens: Just like George and Uncle Billy, First Security State Bank is filled with fun and lovable characters. We take great pride in employing local citizens throughout our company, and helping them grow within the banking industry. If you’re looking for a new career, stop in and see if First Security State Bank is right for you!

Get to know all of us at First Security State Bank and discover how community banking can help you achieve a wonderful life. For everything from personal financing, to commercial lending, we have the perfect solution for you. Get started today and share your next financial goal with us, we’ll help you shoot for the moon!

Low-Cost New Business Ideas

Small Business

Creating a new business is an exciting journey filled with a constant flow of ups and downs. When deciding which industry to invest your time and money, consider these cost-effective options, courtesy of First Security State Bank:

Virtual Assistant: Needing a basic set-up of only a desk, computer, and phone, this affordable opportunity allows you to work from home, and establish your own hours. Start slow with one or two clients, and work your way up to a full-time schedule.

Medical Reporter: Quick typing skills and a high accuracy is all you need in this quick start-up. Speak with area hospitals and gain contracts for their on-location reporting. The higher your words per minute, the better!

Pet Groomer: Keeping dogs squeaky clean may sound like a lot of fun, but it can be tough work! With minimal startup costs, you can start your own service straight from home. By focusing your business on smaller dog breeds, you can minimize your cost, and maximize the number of clients you can maintain!

Freelance Writer or Photographer: Put your skills to use in this nomadic and highly flexible field. With an increasingly high amount of online publications, many magazines are searching for additional content and imagery to accompany them. Search the web for opportunities, and begin to build your digital content portfolio.

Event Planner: If arranging holiday parties and birthday celebrations sounds like fun to you, this could be your ideal career! Get started planning events for families and friends, and begin building your network of clients at each function. Once people start to see what you can do, you can begin to build your client list, and slowly fill your calendar with events and your pocketbook with revenue.

Wherever your passions take you, First Security State Bank will help you arrive safely! With our trusted business financing, we can help you and your budget stay on track. Stop by today to speak with one of our commercial lenders, and discover how to create your ideal cash flow.

True or False: Catch Me if You Can

Check Fraud

Starting in 1963, Frank Abagnale began his criminal career. Made famous from the film, Catch Me if You Can, this mastermind of forgery made a name for himself at a young age by impersonating pilots, lawyers, and doctors. Throughout these impersonations, Frank found new and inventive ways to defraud the United States and at least eight other countries. When he was captured at age 21, he had defrauded multiple nations upwards of $1.3 million dollars. After serving five years of his twelve year federal sentencing, he agreed to work with the FBI to help investigate and proactively protect the United States from further check fraud.

As Frank’s history with the FBI began to grow, he started to share the distinctive patterns and signatures behind the best of check fraud criminals. See if you can determine which of these check fraud facts are true and which are just cinematic magic:

True or False? Big corporations such as Panam had a much higher risk of check fraud than small mom and pop shops.

FALSE:  Although Panam was depicted as the start of Frank’s larger check fraud scheme, large scale business models face less risk than most small businesses. Did you know one in four businesses have fell victim to fraud? While larger companies have internal security and protective insurances for such instances, most local businesses rely on their employees and their customers to ensure an honest and accurate transaction.

True or False? Paper check forgery still is prominent today.

TRUE: With small businesses as the largest targets, paper check fraud is still a relevant issue, even today. Often times, the culprit can be employees who write a business check to themselves. Other instances can be a vendor who is able to alter the ink on the check to reflect an amount that they would prefer. While there are many additional cyber fraud crimes possible today, the threat of a paper check fraud is still imminent.

True or False? This movie largely encourages check fraud and teaches criminals how to hone their craft.

FALSE: While this movie does display many techniques in producing fraudulent checks, the premier intention of the film is to educate both banks and businesses in what to look for concerning false checks. There are many simple markers and signs that a check may be a fake, and while the storyline depicts the various lifestyle choices of a criminal, it reveals in the end, that Frank Abagnale began to help the FBI identify these markers to prevent future check fraud.

What to look for in fraudulent checks straight from Frank Abagnale:

  • Keep any checks, deposit slips, or check re-orders under lock and key in a secure location. Many times those close to your business are the culprits in a check fraud crime.
  • Use Remote Deposit Capture from First Security State Bank.
  • When receiving a check in a transaction, scan the check to make sure it has a perforated edge, marking where it was torn from the checkbook.
  • Never cash a check you are unsure of. If something does not seem right, it is always safer to ask for further identity verification, or simply deny their request to cash the check.

If you’re curious how to keep your small business secure against check fraud, come by First Security State Bank today and speak with one of our local commercial lenders.

How You Could Lose Money When You Move

Moving

Moving across town or across the country takes a lot of time and careful planning. Everything from packing up beforehand to timing out the closing on your past and future homes. Before you begin your next big move, be sure to look out for these common extra expenses and how you DO or DON’T want to handle them.

DO: Box up your belongings and have professional movers pack them into the moving truck.

DON’T: Rent a do-it-yourself to save money.

In this scenario, you run a much higher potential risk of damaged furniture and other valuables when items are packaged and shipped incorrectly. However, if you box them yourselves and hire a professional moving crew, they will typically insure your goods up to a specific dollar amount to be sure your home goods are safe and secure.

DO: Ask your local grocery store or discount store for unwanted boxes.

DON’T: Pay for cardboard boxes.

The only thing more expensive than moving, is preparing to move. Instead of using your valuable funds for room specified boxes, reach out to local businesses and offer to take their surplus boxes away for free!

DO: Pack one room at a time.

DON’T: Procrastinate packing.

Denying the increasing deadline of the move will only make packing that much worse when you realize it must be done. Instead of taking two weekends of 24-hour packing, designate a timeline of which rooms you want packed by what dates. This way you can stay on track without having to tackle the entire home at once.

DO: Research the costs associated with your new potential city.

DON’T: Move for a career where you will make more, but your expenses may skyrocket.

Many expenses, such as housing or groceries, here in the Midwest are relatively affordable compared to other areas of the country. If you and your family are planning to move across the nation, or just across the state, make sure to check the average expenses for the area. Although a new job may offer additional pay or benefits, the expenses of the area may be more than your current household budget in the Midwest. Always take this into account before fully committing to a move.

Wherever your next home takes you, First Security State Bank is here to help! Speak with one of our experienced mortgage lenders to see what your home value could mean in other areas!

 

The Most Common Phishing Scams and How to Avoid Them

PhishingScams

Phishing is a common term for the unfortunate schemes hackers and online criminals use to lure users into giving their personal information. Typically disguised as familiar online activity, these scam artists have cleverly found several distinctive ways to attempt to trick YOU into handing over your private details. Be on the lookout for these common phishing scams next time you’re roaming the web!

  1.   Foreign Lottery Scam

With this tactic you generally receive an email informing you that you have just won the lottery of some far-away land! To obtain these exorbitant funds you simply have to send a small fee to cover the transfer cost. A simple online search will show that this thrilling lottery is no more than phony website with a long distance phone number. Typically if the sending address doesn’t look familiar, or if you have not applied to any foreign lotteries, it will be a dead giveaway that this email is just an attempt to get your information and your money.

  1.   Survey Scam

Do you like supporting the humane society or other animal organizations? This scam takes advantage of your online history and sends you a survey to submit your opinion on issues that matter to you. Instead of using your responses on animal treatment, this system discovers your email address, and other relative personal information, to hack your account and send out further spam emails.

  1.   Online Banking Scam

Most phishing schemes disguise themselves as something familiar, often as PayPal or even your personal bank. This particular scam typically indicates that some type of immediate action is needed, and your financial account is at risk. Before sending any type of reply communication, check the source of the email, and call your personal contact at the organization to see if the email is legitimate. If you question the validity of any portion of the email, delete it and call the company this con artist is attempting to masquerade as ASAP.

  1.   Clickbait

Social media has a hacking arena all its own. With links scattered across newsfeeds, it’s often hard to determine what is genuine and what is clickbait. Clickbait is a link generated using common controversial issues to get you to click on it. Once clicked, the link may switch to a Facebook login, where you login again. Unfortunately this false login page is a common maneuver by cyber criminals to get your social media login. Having this information, online criminals can now access your account and spam the people you are connected with.
If you think you’ve been a victim of an online phishing scam and your personal banking information has been compromised, call First Security State Bank. We’ll help you watch for signs of identity theft within your personal bank accounts.