3 Easy Improvements to Get Your Home Ready to Sell

Getting your house ready to go on the market doesn't need to be a huge task. Small improvements go a long ways.

Getting your house ready to go on the market doesn’t need to be a huge task. Small improvements go a long ways.

It is almost spring! This means that houses will be popping up on the market left and right. Will yours be one of them? If so, you are probably trying to get your place up to snuff and ready for listing. When you start looking for all of your home’s small inconveniences, it can seem overwhelming. But we have a few easy and inexpensive improvements that you can make to get your home ready!

Scrub your appliances

You may not think that your refrigerator is too dirty. After all, you keep the food you plan to eat in there, right? Start moving food around and you will probably find a lot of drips and spills that have created a sticky mess. Take all the food out of your fridge and freezer and scrub it down with an all-purpose cleaner. While you are at it, clean the oven and dishwasher filter too. Your kitchen appliances will look like new again!


We all have that “catch-all” closet that is constantly getting one more piece of junk shoved in. Go through the clutter and figure out what you want to keep, toss or donate. Come up with a new purpose for the space so it doesn’t become the junk closet again. When you give your empty spaces a job to do, you will maximize your living spaces.

Follow the 5-10 minute rule

Once you get your house looking its best, it is just a matter of keeping it clean and tidy. Easier said than done right? We suggest that you follow the 5-10 minute rule. If you can pick up, clean, or fix something in 5-10 minutes or less, do the job right away. Create a running list for the bigger weekend projects.

Getting your home ready to sell can seem overwhelming but tackling all the little projects adds up to a big difference! Even if you aren’t selling your home, motivate yourself to complete some spring cleaning projects!

If you are looking to purchase a new home or refinance your current home, First Security State Bank’s mortgage lenders are ready to help! Contact Robert Manning and Ronald Andresen for assistance.

Are You Ready to Retire? Take Our Quiz to Find Out!

Have you thought about retirement? Take our quiz to find out how much you know!

Have you thought about retirement? Take our quiz to find out how much you know!

If you are 50 or older, it is time to start thinking about your exit from the working world. The sooner that you start planning your retirement strategy, the more time you will have to explore all the different options you have and take the necessary actions. The question is “Are you really ready to retire?” Ask yourself these questions to find out!

  1. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, what percentage of your full Social Security benefit will you lose if you collect at 62 when you are eligible, rather than at the normal retirement age of 66?
    1. 10%
    2. 25%
    3. 50%
  2. If you retire at 66 and inflation over the next 25 years averages 3 percent, how much buying power would you lose by the time you are 91, without inflation-adjusted cost of living increases?
    1. One third of your buying power
    2. More than half
    3. 80%
  3. Retirement savings must last the rest of your life. What are the chances that at least one member of a 65-year-old married couple will live to be over 92?
    1. 10%
    2. 25%
    3. 50%
  4. To make sure that you don’t outlive your savings, what’s a good rule of thumb for annual withdrawals?
    1. Don’t touch the money until you really need it
    2. Restrict your withdrawals to 4 percent of your savings during the first year of retirement. Increase withdrawals to keep pace with inflation in the future.
    3. Withdraw the money only in case of emergencies.
  5. How much should a 65-year-old couple retiring today expect to spend on out-of-pocket healthcare costs throughout their retirement years?
    1. $40,000
    2. $140,000
    3. $240,000
  6. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home is around $81,000 a year. Who covers that cost if you need care?
    1. Your health insurance
    2. Medicare
    3. You do, unless you have special long-term care insurance

So how did you do? If you got most of the questions right, way to go! You are off to a good start toward your retirement goals. If you think you have some work to do, let First Security State Bank help! We offer an online retirement calculator to help you figure out what it will take to create a secure retirement. We want to help you feel confident and secure in your later years. Contact us today!

10 Tips to Save $10 a Day


It can be difficult to stick to a budget, but changing just a few of your daily habits can help you to save big. First Security State Bank has rounded up 10 things you can do to save $10 a day this year.

  1. Choose a different ride – Use public transportation, walk, bike, or carpool to the office instead of driving.
  2. Brown bag it – Packing a lunch is not only easier on your wallet, but your health as well!
  3. Eat leftovers – If you have food left on your plate when you eat out, ask your server for a box. Take the time to store extra food in containers after cooking. You can easily stretch each meal into two or more.
  4. DIY snack time – Pass on Starbucks and brew your own coffee at home. This saves both cash and calories! Avoid the vending machine at work by buying your own snacks in bulk and storing them in a desk drawer.
  5. Listen for free – If you listen to a variety of music throughout the day, use free or subscription music sites like Pandora or Spotify instead of purchasing individual songs.
  6. Drink water – If possible, take the free route and drink tap water. Carry a reusable bottle with you so you can refill it throughout the day.
  7. Make a matinee date – Make plans with friends to catch an afternoon show and take advantage of cheaper ticket prices.
  8. Skip dry cleaning – If you learn more about your clothing, you can find out which fabrics can be hand-washed at home and take the time to do it yourself.
  9. Avoid alcohol – Alcoholic drinks add major charges to your bill. Check for happy hour deals before you go out!
  10. Be wise about organic products – Organic foods with peels, like melons and bananas, are not any safer than the non-organic. The peel will protect the fruit from any pesticides.

Cutting back by just $10 a day turns into an extra $3,600 at the end of the year. That is $3,600 you can put towards a long term goal or other investment. Isn’t that worth cutting back on some small luxuries each day? For money-saving tips and tricks, talk to First Security State Bank. We are ready to answer your questions!

Break Hearts, Not the Bank: Four Things NOT to Buy for Valentine’s Day

Here are some items you should NOT buy for Valentine's Day.

Here are some items you should NOT buy for Valentine’s Day.

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans spend over $17 billion celebrating love on Valentine’s Day. If you haven’t bought a Valentine’s Day (which is on Saturday, if you need a reminder) gift for your loved one yet, First Security State Bank has some ways you can get a better deal this year. You can save some major bucks on these four things when retailers slash prices after February 14.

Chocolate – There are always affordable boxes of chocolates available. But if you are looking for something special, you may be better off surprising him or her with this special treat in a few weeks. The gift boxes of chocolates usually get marked down by as much as 50 percent later on.

Jewelry – Some retailers offer discounts on jewelry before Valentine’s Day. But if you hold off for a week or two after Valentine’s Day, many stores will majorly reduce prices.

Perfume – Perfume sales typically peak during Christmas and Valentine’s Day. This means that retailers tend to mark down prices after these holidays have passed. Websites dedicated to selling perfume usually have the best sales in March.

Roses – Most people expect red roses to be more expensive on Valentine’s Day. This price increase can be due to demand as well as the labor needed to harvest and ship the 257 million roses that were produced for Valentine’s Day last year.

We just made Valentine’s Day more difficult by telling you not to buy the go-to gifts, didn’t we? Don’t worry! We have some ways to help you avoid paying the full retail price for gifts this year.

Coupons – Look for store-wide coupons for department stores that carry jewelry, perfume and chocolates. Online florists often offer promotional codes as well.

Compare – Rather than wandering around the mall in hopes of finding a reasonably-priced gift, plan ahead. Compare prices online for the specific items you want to buy.

Alternatives – Opt for an orchid, bouquet of tulips or a potted flower rather than pricey red roses. According to a poll by iVillage, women said they preferred a romantic dinner over anything else, including expensive jewelry. Finding a unique way to show someone how much you love and appreciate them is the best route to take.

Don’t let Valentine’s Day take over your budget this month! You don’t need to overspend to have a special day with your sweetheart! For more budgeting and spending tips, talk to the experts at First Security State Bank.



Four Overlooked Expenses You Are Leaving Out Of Your Budget

To have an accurate budget, it is necessary to include every expense, no matter how small.

To have an accurate budget, it is necessary to include every expense, no matter how small.

Budgeting is an important part of finding financial stability. While many people use a budget, they often forget to factor in all of their expenses. A new year is a good time to re-evaluate your budget to make sure you aren’t forgetting any of these categories.

1. Subscriptions/memberships

While it is easy to remember major costs like rent and utilities, small monthly costs are often overlooked. To budget for an annual subscription or membership, divide the total cost by 12 and set aside that amount of money in a separate category each month.

2. Gifts/special occasions

Since you can always anticipate when special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries will be, it is easy to budget for them. Add up your yearly special occasions and divide the total by 12. Take into account the expense of the presents as well as the cost of any special dinners or parties.

3. Fun Money

To keep your budget from feeling like a restriction, it is important to treat yourself too. Something as small as a fancy coffee drink once a week is a good treat! Allow yourself a certain amount each month that can be spent however you please. This will not only relieve you of guilt but also makes it easier to stick to the budget in other categories.

4. Home repairs

While some home maintenance costs are annual and easy to budget for, many repairs are unforeseen. Set aside a certain amount each month to cover any surprises as they arise.

If you have a hard time sticking to your budget each month, make adjustments. Look for areas where you are spending that aren’t included on your budget.  If you are spending any amount of money on something, it should be included. For more budgeting advice, stop in to see your friends at First Security State Bank. Stop by either our Cedar Falls or Evansdale locations today!

Things People with Good Credit DON’T Do

We hear a lot of advice about improving a credit score. It's time to take a look at what you should not be doing.

We hear a lot of advice about what you should do to improve your credit score. It’s time to take a look at what you should not be doing.

Your credit score is not a new topic for First Security State Bank. While we usually emphasize tricks you can use to raise your credit score, the importance of maintaining that score is often overlooked. Instead of listing a bunch of things you can do to raise your score, we are going to look at a few things that people with good credit DON’T do.

People with Good Credit Don’t:

1. Wait Until the Due Date to Pay Bills

Paying bills on time is not a new or novel idea. But just paying off bills by the due date will not guarantee good credit. If possible, pay off your cards by the report date. This is the date, typically a few days before the due date, is when a creditor sends updates to credit bureaus. If you haven’t paid your bill by the day, it could appear that you are carrying a balance from month to month. But when you pay by the report date, the creditor reports a zero dollar balance. And the less debt you have, the higher your score will be.

2. Open Retail Store Accounts

The credit inquiries that each retailer asks for impacts your credit score. Each one can reduce your credit score by up to five points. This may seem minor, but if you apply for multiple cards in a short period of time, those points add up. Is lower credit worth a one-time discount?

3. Stop Using Credit Cards

When you can’t control spending, it may seem like a good idea to cut up the credit cards. But people with good credit never stop using their cards, even if it means spending just $20 a month. Some credit card companies will cancel accounts after a certain time of inactivity. This can drive up overall credit utilization ratio, causing a drop in credit score. It can also shorten your credit history, which triggers a drop as well.

It is an achievement to raise your credit score, but it is even more important that you maintain it. This will make it easier to qualify for loans and earn lower interest rates. For more advice on getting your credit score up, contact First Security State Bank.

Beat the Retailer

Retail stores are strategically set up to make you buy more. If you know the tricks they use, you will be able to resist them.

Retail stores are strategically set up to make you buy more. If you know the tricks they use, you will be able to resist them.

How many times have you gone into the store to grab one thing, but ended up blowing $50 at the checkout? We have all been guilty of this at least a time or two. While your self-control might be called into question, stores are actually setting you up to overspend. They use professionals and psychologists to strategically map out their floor plan to make you buy more. By understanding some of the tactics used by stores to get you to spend, you can avoid falling into their traps!

The Decompression Zone – As you enter a store, the foyer or “decompression zone” is where you find yourself first. This area is meant to get you in the frame of mind to shop. The decompression zone has friendly greeters, advertisements, and some of the best deals on display. But those displays aren’t necessarily created to make you grab one of those items. Its purpose is to prove that there are great deals all over this store and you should explore further to find them.

The Center – In the grocery store, you may notice that convenience food displays make up most of the items stocked in the center of the store. You are forced to pass them in order to locate the basic items like milk and eggs. Clothing stores save the center of their shops for full-priced items. You must walk past the more expensive items in order to reach the clearance section in the back. Sometimes, you may be fooled into thinking you are getting something for the sale price until you check out and realize that you have spent more than you thought.

The Checkout Line – Every parent knows that checkout lines in most retail stores are packed with impulse buys. Some stores have tabloid magazines to flip through and impulsively buy. Some have novelty or “As Seen On TV” items. Others have shelves of practical items like batteries, Tylenol, or lip balm. Consumers need to be aware that retailers are manipulating their fears of forgetting something.

Some ways to beat retailers are shopping quickly with a list of needed items, checking price tags, and taking your time to weigh options. If you understand the methods that retailers use, you can be in control of your shopping and spending.

FSSB wants you to stay in control of your money. As always, we will continue to offer you financial tips and information in our future blog posts!

Shop Online. Shop Smart.

Online shopping is convenient but consumers must be careful with their information to avoid fraud.

Online shopping is convenient but consumers must be careful with their information to avoid fraud.

Online shopping offers good bargains, a wide selection and fast shipping. Shopping has never been more convenient for consumers. However, there are also terrifying stories of identity theft and security breaches that occur online. All of the scary statistics about online fraud should not keep you from shopping online though. You just need some common sense and good advice. That’s why FSSB is here! Here are some tips for staying safe online.

Look For The Lock – NEVER use your debit or credit card to buy anything from a website that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. You can tell if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://. A locked padlock icon will also appear in the status bar or address window of your web browser. Also, never give anyone your credit card over email.

Use Familiar Sites – Start your shopping with a trusted site rather than shopping through a search engine that can be easily rigged. If you know the site and have used it before, the chances are less likely that it is a rip off. Almost every major retailer has an online store and Amazon.com carries every product under the sun. Stick to these reputable sites for complete security.

Check Your Statements – Don’t wait until the end of the month when your bill comes. Check your credit card, debit card, and checking account statements online regularly during the holiday season. FSSB offers Online Banking that allows you to view transactions in your account history.

Privatize Your Wi-Fi  – If you are using a laptop or mobile device, only use the wireless internet if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. This is also not a good time to try out a hotspot that you aren’t familiar with. Stick to the networks you already know. Free Wi-Fi access is available at libraries, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble stores, McDonalds, Panera Bread and many more, but they don’t generally have high levels of security associated with them.

If you plan to shop online this holiday season, use your head. Don’t fall for deals that seem too good to be true. Keep your guard up and be wise with who you give any information to.

How to Stay out of the Red on Black Friday

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. But there are different tricks you can use to keep from overspending.

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. But there are different tricks you can use to prevent overspending.

Most of us can’t resist a good sale. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving filled with massive sales from retailers nationwide, is still on the rise with its popularity.  Almost 250 million people visit stores on Black Friday, with another 130 million shopping online on Cyber Monday.

These big sale days are actually a great time to get holiday shopping done or at least started, but how do you resist the temptation to buy more than you should?

One word: BUDGET.

Here are a few savings strategies for those committed Black Friday shoppers this year:

  • Find savings before hitting the store- sit down with a newspaper, look at deals on the “official” Black Friday website or download the Black Friday app!
  • Compare ads- the first price you find for an item may not be the lowest, so be sure to peruse the ads for lower prices.
  • Make a specific list for each store- find what you want and buy ONLY those gifts. Map out your route based on store hours and locations.
  • Use cash- if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to overspend despite doing all the above strategies, use cash.  Figure out the total amount you want to spend, get that amount in cash, and leave your debit or credit card at home to avoid going over the limit. Don’t forget about the money deposited from your Christmas Club Savings account in October!

Many serious Black Friday shoppers have developed creative ways to save. Hopefully whichever strategy you use will help you to spend smarter and actually save money.

Most importantly, First Security State Bank wants you to stay safe this Black Friday. Drive carefully, park in well lit and populated areas and don’t leave purchased items in plain sight in your vehicle. We hope all goes well and look forward to seeing you soon in our Cedar Falls or Evansdale locations!

Are Thieves Targeting Your Child for Identity Theft? Here’s How to Know.

Many of us don't consider the possibility of our child's identity being stolen, making them an easy target.

Many of us don’t consider the possibility of our child’s identity being stolen, making them an easy target.

Do you know what your child’s credit report looks like? Of course not! Why would you check a credit report for someone who doesn’t have any credit? While it may seem ridiculous, this is the reason that children are easy targets for identity theft.

Thieves know adults aren’t going to be checking a credit report for a child so they can run up debt for quite a few years without being detected. Common ways that thieves get information about children are medical records, mail tampering and computer searches. Here are a few ways to help protect your child’s identity.

  • Guard their Social Security number – Never carry your child’s Social Security card in your wallet, give the number out over the phone unless you trust the recipient, and don’t give them the number until he or she is old enough to understand what it is.
  • Be mindful when posting information about your child – If you want to post on social media that it is your child’s birthday, don’t reveal their age. Thieves can use that information to get their complete date of birth and access personal information. If you have a child online, stress to them the importance of protecting personal information on the internet.
  • Be careful with their birth certificate – A lot of club sports teams ask parents to present a birth certificate as proof of a child’s age. If your child’s coach asks for personal documents, make a copy and show it to the coach. Put the copy in a sealed envelope with your name on it and let the coach know that you expect to get the envelope back unopened at the end of the season.

Signs that your child’s identity has been stolen:

  • Your child receives unsolicited credit offers or letters from debt collectors
  • If you try to open an account for your child and the bank tells you that an account with your child’s Social Security number has already been opened
  • The IRS sends you a letter saying that the Social Security number listed for your child on your tax return is a duplicate

Unfortunately, identity theft is becoming increasingly common and nobody is free from risk, including children. First Security State Bank wants to keep you and your family safe and at peace. Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about your family’s financial security.