Category: Personal Finances

Organizing Your Finances for the Holiday Rush

The holidays are a time where we surround ourselves with family, friends and the people we love most. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling across the country, the holiday season means you’ll be eating good food and spending plenty of time shopping.

And while all that food may mean your clothes fit a little tighter, the shopping can have a similar impact on your wallet. It’s important to make sure your finances are organized before the real holiday rush is upon us. Not only will you be better prepared, but you’ll be less stressed so you can enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.

Make your holiday season more enjoyable by using these tips from First Security State Bank.

Technology Is Your Friend

It’s easier than ever to use technology to organize your finances. Take advantage of online and mobile banking to get a real-time look at your account balances. Utilize the mobile deposit feature of your mobile banking app to deposit personal checks to your account so the funds are available sooner. There are also several financial management tools available online that will help you with setting a budget and establishing saving goals.

Set Alerts

You already know that your bills are due at different times throughout the month, but it’s important to remember that the holidays may cause changes in those due dates. Verify any upcoming due dates and make note of any changes from your regular monthly payment schedule. Utilize the bill pay features of your online banking account to make sure payments are scheduled well in advance, and set up alerts to make sure you’re reminded of your payment and to verify that the payment went through.

Hold On To Your Statements

This is hard to remember throughout the year, but keeping all of your statements organized is important. Something as simple as keeping separate manila folders for your savings and checking account statements, IRA statements, 401(k) records and other financial documents can go a long way and won’t cost you much.

Get Rid of High Interest Debt

It can seem easier to use your credit card when holiday shopping. To make sure you can use your credit during the holidays, make sure you’ve paid down anything you owe.

Organizing your finances before the holidays hit will make the season more enjoyable so you can focus on the things that matter most. Contact First Security State Bank to make sure your finances are set up for a happy holiday season.

 

 

How NOT to Get Hacked

not hacked

Every day you hear tips and tricks to ensuring the safety behind your personal information. While many of these offers and promotions are advertising a safety service, at First Security State Bank, we believe you can handle the majority of these precautions yourself! See what steps you’ll need to take in order to best prepare for your financial future. We’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

DO: Store your passwords in a secure app like LastPass.

DON’T: Write your passwords on post-it’s which you keep around your desk.

Remembering your passwords is important, but leaving them unattended for hackers could be dangerous. Ensure you keep your details out of plain site by utilizing secure password storage apps such as LastPass or Dashlane. Not only will this help you forget your passwords less often, but it helps you create more complicated passwords to help keep unwanted hackers at bay.

DO: Use social media to connect with friends and family.

DON’T: Connect with people you don’t know or share personal account information.

Even though social media can be a great way to interact with people you know, many users become choose to become connected with individuals they’ve never met. If you find yourself with a friend request from someone you don’t recognize, always decline it, to keep you and your contact safe. If for some reason you’re unsure if you know the individual or not, you can always message them to see how you’re connected instead.

DO: Shop online and find great deals.

DON’T: Use your debit card when shopping online.

Both your debit and credit card can be used online, however, only your credit card offers a zero fraud liability with no strings attached. Should your debit card become compromised you will need to act more swiftly, and you may even have to wait weeks or months before you see any stolen funds returned to your checking or savings account. Always be proactive and use your credit card if you plan to purchase online!

While these three strategies will help to keep your personal information safe, there are always new tips and tricks to learn! Check back on our blog each month to see how you can continue to improve your personal cyber security, courtesy of First Security State Bank.

Red Flags to Look for on Your Credit Score

Personal Finance

Everyone and their brother seems to be sharing the importance of checking your credit score, but once you have the information, how do you actually know what it means? At First Security State Bank, we want you to not only have the information about your personal finances but be able to understand and act upon it as well. If you see any of the following red flags while viewing your report, you may want to look into the appropriate remedies as quickly as possible.

Missed or Late Payments

Your credit report should accurately showcase your current repayment history, which accounts for approximately 35 percent of your credit score. This area of the report should indicate if any payments have been missed and have been reported to the bureau as late. If you see a payment that you were unaware of, be sure to reach out to the company listed and contact them to pay off the bill in question.

Fraudulent Activity

It is possible to view your credit report and find bills or inquiries that you did not initiate. In this instance, it is important to take the appropriate steps to report identity theft and begin recovering your financial reputation. The sooner you alert the authorities and lending organizations to this unfortunate dilemma, the less likely you are to suffer any long-term side effects.

Excessive New Accounts

While having more than one account open can positively affect your credit score, attempting to open too many in a short time period can cause a negative reaction. If you see more than two accounts opened in the last three months, you may want to wait before attempting to apply for a credit card or other lending option.

Active Collections Accounts

If you haven’t checked your credit score in a few years, any potential missed or late payments may now have spiraled into active collection attempts. In this instance, the best practice is to contact the companies listed and discuss repayment options. Many times if you are actively working to pay down an account receivable, the company will work with you to structure monthly installments that fit within your personal budget.

At First Security State Bank, we recommend checking your credit score each month. Tools such as Capital One’s CreditWise make it affordable to see your score without having to pay any associated fees. If you’d like more information on how to increase your credit score, stop in today. One of our trusted personal bankers would be happy to answer any questions or curiosities that you have.

10 Steps to Opening Your Own Business

Creating the foundation of your next enterprise can be a challenging process. For everything from ideas to permits, it takes a lot to get a new business up and running. At First Security State Bank we would like to help you make your dream a reality, and offer these ten steps to opening your avant-garde operation:

  1. Write a business plan. Creating the sound reasoning behind what you want to do and how you want to do it, represents the building blocks to a good business. There are many tutorials to help you develop a plan and to accompany them, we recommend researching information for each section of the document.
  2. Select the best location. Location can make or break a business. In conjunction with your plan’s market research, we suggest scouting out the best potential locations. Adding this element to your proposal can help you create the optimal visualization when describing your concept.
  3. Build a marketing strategy. Great service and great promotion go hand in hand. Unfortunately the old adage, “If you build it they will come,” no longer applies. Now, in order to get clients through the door, you’ll need a structured and continual marketing plan to ensure customers in your area are aware of your business.
  4. Plan your finances. These not only refer to the funds you need to open your business but also the additional costs to help support the initial years of operation. This extra capital will help ensure your business doesn’t topple while building its ongoing customer base.
  5. Meet with a commercial lender. Once you have the core of your business planned and calculated, it’s time to meet with a small business lender to evaluate your risk. He or she may require a percentage down, or that certain criteria are met before loan signing.
  6. Fulfill any requirements. Whether it’s saving additional funds, offering up collateral, or obtaining designated permits, it is best practice to meet and exceed the requirements that your lender has suggested, in order to maximize your lending potential.
  7. Close on a business loan. After securing the funds for your business, be certain they’re placed within a business account, instead of a personal one. To help ensure your funds are separated, we also recommend creating an LLC for your business prior to opening.
  8. Purchase or lease the space. Using the money you’ve budgeted, move forward with purchasing or leasing the space for your new enterprise. After space has been secured you’ll need to acquire equipment and supplies from another portion of your predetermined budget.
  9. Structure and hire your team. Another old saying goes, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” This is a great adage to stick by, as more often than not, people are what makes a business successful. Decide your role within the company, and then craft detailed job descriptions for the rest of your potential employees. Start building your team with the best people for the job, and add further help as needed.
  10. Open and continually promote. The big day has arrived and the doors are officially open. Continue to keep them open through constant and innovative marketing efforts. By pushing your products and services to the public you can ensure that they’re aware of your offerings and consider your business a valued option.

We look forward to meeting with you about your next corporate venture. If you have any questions on how to complete the steps above or have additional inquiries on commercial lending, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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!

 

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.

How to Create your Emergency Fund and When to Use It

Savings

Creating a structured savings plan is one thing that can set apart the financial dreamers from the financial doers! By setting strict guidelines to your goal, and ensuring the correct follow through with a backed up savings plan, you can be certain of your success in accomplishing your future achievement! One of the biggest obstacles in these plans is the unforeseen, and there is a way to manage even that. Using a well-rounded emergency fund can ensure that you don’t dip into saved funds for unexpected costs such as auto repairs, or medical emergencies. Want to get started setting up your emergency fund today? Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to financial success!

  1. Open a dedicated savings account.
  2. Deposit Funds each month without withdrawing anything.
  3. Start by saving $1000.

– Next save 3 months’ worth of income and expenses.

– Finally maintain 6 months’ worth of income and expenses.

The reason you have this fund is simple, to prepare for the unprepareable. Whether it’s an unanticipated job loss, a costly home repair, or other unplanned expenses, your emergency fund can help you stay afloat when the waters get rough.

The main objective of this account is to have it work for you and your needs! By specifically determining what you define as an emergency (job loss, vet bills, auto repairs) and what doesn’t (last minute birthday gift, broken TV, new clothes) you can generate a structured list to know when you feel safe using those funds, and when perhaps its best to leave them untouched. The idea of the emergency fund is to have it when you need it. By gaining access easily via checkbook or debit card, you can make use of the account more quickly when the unexpected strikes.

By generating your own emergency fund you can continue to save for milestones and pay bills, without worrying about the what if’s that lie along the road to the future. Get started with your emergency account today at First Security State Bank, we’ll help you get to your next savings goal!

How to Save $1,000,000 by Retirement

How to Save $1,000,000 By Retirement

Retirement may seem an eternity away; however, even if it’s a dream 20 years down the road, saving for retirement shouldn’t wait until the goal is in sight. Rule of thumb says you’ll need $1,000,000 in savings to retire comfortably. Our experts at First Security State Bank recommend taking the following steps to save with the future in mind:

  • Determine when you want your $1 million. The typical age of retirement is 65, but you may be shooting for a few years earlier or later. Whatever the age affects how much you need to save each month, so calculate years left to save based on current age and breakdown monthly savings requirements thereafter.
  • Start saving ASAP. Compound interest rewards those that begin saving earlier rather than later. A $10,000 investment at age 25 could yield tens of thousands of dollars more by 65 than if that same $10,000 were invested at 35.
  • Spend less than you save. It’s basic math. You’ll have money left over only if income exceeds expenses. Buying a home within your range, purchasing cars secondhand, and paying for vacations out of savings and not on credit protects you from dipping into debt.
  • Opt for automatic. Research your employer’s 401k or retirement-based plans and determine what percent you’d like funneled from your paycheck and into your savings. If your employer matches contributions up to a limit, work to reach their maximum to maximize your savings.
  • Save beyond your 401k. Expect the unexpected. A flooded basement or dying car engine can send you spiraling out of your financial plan if you haven’t budgeted for rainy days. Set up a $1,000 emergency fund as soon as possible, and work to expand it to anywhere from 6-12 months of income to protect you from larger surprises, like medical issues or unemployment.

The road to a million takes time and discipline, but it’s exceedingly possible. For further savings strategies and investment options, make an appointment today to meet with one of our trained financial advisers.

Spring Home Renovations with a Home Equity Line of Credit

Home Equity

With warm weather approaching spring is the ideal time to shake off the dust and get your house back into shape! Get started on your next home renovation with a strategic Home Equity Line of Credit from First Security State Bank. Our custom financing allows you to withdraw only the funds you need along the course of your future project. Inspiration can be found everywhere when updating common areas such as the kitchen, bathrooms, basement, or outdoor living area. See what these average home renovations cost with this handy guide courtesy of First Security State Bank.

Kitchen Remodel: Creating your ideal culinary environment is more than just choosing cabinets and granite. With all the updates and finishing work, a typical Midwestern kitchen remodel can cost around $15,000 to complete. Carefully crafting the heart of your home takes concentrated decision making and long term planning. Consider updating your kitchen appliances to save you time and energy while preparing future meals. You may want to refinish or replace worn out flooring to match the new feel of your fresh remodel.

Bathroom Remodel: Giving your common space a much needed facelift can help you add value to your home. With updates as simple as new hardware and a tasteful backsplash you can bring some timeless style to a functional space. When undertaking a full renovation, features like a walk-in shower or a double vanity can bring a bold statement to the room. The average bathroom remodel in Iowa typically runs under $10,000 for a completely revamped space.

New Deck: Building a fun outdoor patio or deck can open up the area for countless fun family activities. Costing around $6000 for the average Midwestern deck, you can complete this exciting renovation in time and under budget. Spice up your new construction with added rails to hold beverages or food during grill outs and get-togethers.

Finishing a Basement: Depending on your foundation and other structural issues, most basement renovations center on adding dry wall, placing new flooring, and waterproofing the entirety of the room. Typically costing under $25,000, a finished basement can serve as additional space for an office or play room, increasing the livable square footage of your home.

There are endless projects to begin your spring to-do list this season. Let First Security State Bank help you get started on your next home renovation with a tailored Home Equity Line of Credit. Speak with one of our helpful lenders to get started today!