Red Flags to Look for on Your Credit Score

Credit Score

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 Titonka Savings 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 Titonka Savings 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.

Nature v. Nurture: The Psychology of Spending

Psychology of Spending

If you’ve ever taken Psychology 101, you’ve probably heard the argument for nature v. nurture. In this multi-century discussion, psychologists have debated whether a person’s genetics or environment make a greater impact their personal behavior. At Titonka Savings Bank we’re excited to share our take on this timeless debate, and share how nature and nurture affect your spending habits.

The financial traits which we see as more nature based are:

  • None

Are you surprised? Contrary to many personal opinions, financial lessons and preferences are 99.99 percent teachable. This concept is backed by an interesting study in which children were given one marshmallow immediately, but were given another if they could occupy themselves until the tester returned to the room. Researchers found that the kids who were able to wait to receive the second marshmallow went on to have more successful ACT scores and other measurably improved personal relationships. This information is particularly interesting due to the fact that delayed gratification is a skill, which can be taught from a young age.

Delayed gratification is one of the initial skills learned for financial education in the form of savings. For this reason, it is practical to begin a child’s understanding of finances with this particular task, however, there are many other aspects of managing your money that can be tied to these initial skill sets as well.

The financial traits which we see as more nurture based are:

  • Whether you prefer to save or spend.
  • The specific items you enjoy saving or spending for.
  • Your skillset for prioritizing tasks and expenses.
  • The desire you have to compare yourself to others.

While the list of nurtured traits could go on for miles, the important fact is that like any other skill, fiscal education can be learned through practice and continued repetition.

If you want to grow your personal financial skills set, we recommend starting with a household budget and saving plan. By committing to these two monthly activities you can start to build a foundation of learning to ensure you are adhering to the best financial practices.  As you grow your understanding of finances, adding in a retirement savings plan and debt repayment schedule can be valuable steps to gaining your financial freedom.

To start teaching your child these valuable lessons, we suggest great activities (like these) to help them understand the value of waiting. Simple games such as Mister Noodle can provide valuable comprehension for your child early in life.

Three Things to Look for in a Starter Home

Mortgages

If you’re in the market for your first home, congratulations! Becoming a homeowner is an exciting step on your financial journey. At Titonka Savings Bank, our dedicated mortgage lenders are here to help you find the best financing option for your new home. Remember to stop in and secure a pre-approval letter before you start your home search.

After speaking with a mortgage lender to help determine your family’s ideal price point, it’s time to start viewing potential homes. During this process you’re bound to find a home you’ll fall in love with, and others that may send you running for the hills. As you ride this rollercoaster of an experience, we recommend searching for the following three things in your family’s ideal new house:

  1. Good Bones. Starter homes are a great option to find a great house within an affordable budget. To ensure your investment lasts for the long-term, we recommend taking a hard look at any foundational cracks, leans, or other structural ailments. While the rest of the house could look fantastic, these three issues should be instant red flags signaling you to continue looking at other homes.
  2. Cohesive Neighborhood. The people you surround yourself could be the individuals you see at 6:00 AM taking the trash out, or the partiers you have to ask to turn down the music at 11:00 PM. As you tour properties, don’t be afraid to chat with any potential neighbors and see if there is any information they can give on families you’ll be living alongside.
  3. Suitable Layout. While some renovations are certainly possible when purchasing a starter home, obstacles such as load-bearing walls could limit your expectations. Consider the overall layout of the home at the showing, and see if you could picture yourself the ways it is. If the answer is no, then you may want to find a few backup options should the renovations not be available within your budget.

The perfect home will look different to everyone. If you’re ready to start searching for your family’s new house, our experienced mortgage lenders are here to help. We work with many successful local realtors, and we would be happy to refer you to the one that fits your needs best. Give us a call or stop by to begin the search for your home today.

10 Ways to Shop Local

Business Banking

Supporting our community is one of the most impactful ways we can help it grow. By shopping with local vendors and utilizing area service providers you and your family can help ensure that our community prospers and grows each year. If you want to shop local, but don’t know where to start, our team at Titonka Savings Bank has come up with some creative ideas you may not have considered yet.

  1. Get produce at your local farmers market.
  2. Purchase floral arrangements from your neighborhood florist instead of online vendors.
  3. Work with local providers for your insurance and wealth management.
  4. Venture out for the night and tour area dining and entertainment establishments.
  5. Bank with a community bank.
  6. Buy groceries from a regional company compared to the large national chains.
  7. Like your favorite area businesses on Facebook and other social media.
  8. Shop for birthdays and holidays at your community’s downtown storefront.
  9. If you have received great service or products from a local business, recommend them to a friend or relative.
  10. Stay local when planning weddings or other milestone events and avoid online alternatives.

Owning and managing a small business may be more difficult than you think. We believe that opportunity is everywhere. Whether you’d like to open a business of your own, or simply want to support the ones you enjoy, it’s great to learn what small businesses are all about. That’s why Titonka Savings Bank is excited to share some compelling and surprising facts surrounding the small businesses in our neck of the woods.

  • A company is considered a small business if they have less than 500 employees according to the Small Business Administration.
  • 99.7 percent of all active companies in the United States are classified as small businesses.
  • If your favorite retailer has been in business over ten years, they have officially beat the odds. According to the Bureau of Labor, two out of three small businesses are still operating after two years in business, and only half of small businesses have survived after being open for five years.  Approximately one-third of small businesses last ten years or longer.
  • Cash flow is cited as the more common issue regarding a business’s failure. Associated tasks such as invoicing, timed billing, and record keeping are often the most commonly linked culprits.

If your business needs to gain capital for an expansion or start-up, Titonka Savings Bank is here to help. Our experienced commercial lenders can help you determine your ideal capital amount while also setting up valuable cash flow services Send us your information or stop in today to learn more about this convenient and affordable service.

The Argument for a Monthly Money Meeting

Money Management

Whether you’re recently married, or you’re approaching your 30th anniversary, you know that money can be a topic of controversy among couples and families. Even in the most perfect relationships hardships happen, and decisions have to be made. At Titonka Savings Bank, we think there is a helpful and long-term tool that can help you have less conflict and more compromises while contemplating both goals and solutions. The answer is relatively simple, talk it out, however, the complicated part is how.

The first thing you need for a successful money discussion is an agreement between all persons to refrain from defensiveness and accusation. With this mindset you can openly consider both positives and negatives of past and future financial decisions. Each month set a time where you and your spouse or family can get together and determine your current financial landscape. Discuss the highs as well as the lows, and gain perspective from each individual on where they feel the money is best spent or saved. Once the past month is discussed, start making a list of any suggested changes for the upcoming month.

The list should detail any adjustments that are going to be made, and the desired outcome they hope to generate. The meeting participants can then choose which, if any, changes are warranted and should be enacted.

This meeting not only keeps a continuous dialogue with you and your spouse or family, but also allows you to have a fresh look at your finances every month, ensuring all bills and saving initiatives have been completed before the meeting takes place.

Other great tips we suggest to continue improving your money management:

  • Calculate your net worth every six months. This will help you with the large scale view of your family’s financial well-being and see where you can find additional ways to continue to grow.
  • Set new goals when you surpass the old ones. The worst thing you can do for your finances is to do nothing. If you knock your latest goal out of the park, Titonka Savings Bank challenges you to make an even more challenging goal and find a way to make it happen.
  • For spouses, have joint and individual accounts. By structuring your finances together and apart you can ensure your joint account holds all the necessary funds for any household expenses, while each person’s private account can be used at their own discretion.
  • Designate a bill payer. Determine who in your house will be in charge of paying the monthly invoices and balancing the checking account throughout. By allowing one person to be responsible for this task you can ensure bill are not able to be missed due to misinterpreted communication.

Teaching Your Children the Basics of Online Security

Security

If you’re like many parents in the United States, your preteens and teenagers may be running circles around you when it comes to utilizing the latest technology. Whether that’s Facebook’s latest updates, new iPhone technology, or the latest app hitting the scene, the amount of new knowledge and innovation seems endless. For your growing adults, this may look more like an endless playground than a minefield, but at times it can be both. To help your children use technology while still remaining safe we recommend these simple suggestions:

Passwords are important. Instead of defaulting to the same password for every account, explain to your son or daughter why they should have a complex password for each separate account. Leary cyber criminals are able to gain access to all your accounts instead of only one when they discover the passwords are all the same. The strongest passwords contain lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Great apps like LastPass can help to store all current passwords in addition to creating stronger password options.

Privacy matters. On Facebook and most other social media outlets, there are always options to make your profile private or public. For children, and adults, we strongly recommend keeping your personal online profile private. While you and your children can connect with friends and other known acquaintances, it can become dangerous to push your information out to anyone who wants to read it. For instance, if you post about leaving for a family vacation, and the profile is set to public, potential thieves could now view your home as an easy target while you’re away.

Don’t talk to strangers. Just as you had the “Stranger danger,” discussion with your son or daughter when they were younger, this message follows a similar point, but within the chat rooms and friend requests online. While in an ideal world, we wouldn’t face issues like catfishing or cyberbullying, the truth is that these actions can cause real world issues and aren’t always left online. To keep promote in-person communication, remind them of the importance of speaking with friends and family outside of the web, and if they ever do need someone to talk to you and your family are always there to listen.

Only use secure wifi. After school, your teen may head to a part-time job or extracurricular. If they’ll be going away from your home or school, be sure to encourage them to steer clear of unsecure wifi. While many afterschool hotspots offer free wifi for customers, often there may be potential cybercriminals broadcasting a false signal. These unsecure signals can give them access to your child’s computer if the wifi is accepted. The criminal could then access personal information, passwords, or hold the computer access for ransom. To avoid situations like this, instruct your teen or preteen to only use wifi at home and at school unless you have approved of an additional location such as the library.

Teach your children how to use the internet responsibly, and perhaps they can show you how to capitalize on the creative and efficiency tools it offers. At Titonka Savings Bank, we think that family is one of the most valuable parts of life and we want to help your family grow. If you’d like to start a checking or saving account for your teen or preteen, stop in today, we’d love to help you get started.

Water Your Lawn & Your Wallet Too

Save Money

If you’d like to grow your landscape and your finances this season, Titonka Savings Bank has the perfect tips for you! To jumpstart this warmer weather, we’re excited to share our top tips and tricks to maintaining a healthy lawn and garden without digging too deep into your budget:

Seed your lawn early on. Get the growing season started right, and give your landscape some food to help it grow. By not only seeding your grass, but adding fertilizer as well, you can help ensure that your roots grow strong and healthy to fight off intermittent weather changes and pesky pets.

Automate your watering routine.  Keep your landscape looking green by maintaining a daily watering routine without all the fuss of hoses and watering cans. By setting up an automated system, you can make certain you’re not wasting water, while also saving additional funds from no longer needing to replace malnourished plants.

Utilize alternative landscaping options. Reduce your overall recurring costs by taking advantage of helpful products such as landscape fabric, river rock, and various xeriscaping plants. By using these tools to grow foliage other than grass you can cut down on your time and expenses associated with mowing and upkeep.

Other Outdoor Savings Tips: While the above tips can aid you in keeping a green and healthy landscape, saving money isn’t about maintenance only. To help continue your savings in other areas of lawn care, we wanted to share some further tricks in how to reduce other outdoor expenditures associated with your growing landscape.

  • Choose colorful perennials over less-timely annuals when planting flowers. While annuals can have prominent blooms that catch your eye, these flora varieties will need to be re-planted every year. Avoid paying for new seedlings each spring by utilizing returning perennials plants instead. These recurring blooms will hibernate underground each winter, and emerge where they were originally planted year after year.
  • Plant prosperous fruit trees for added shade and earning through plant production. By providing an escape from heated sunlight, shade producing trees can help decrease the cost of your home’s monthly cooling bill. If you choose a tree that also produces fruit you can typically accumulate $200 or more worth of produce that you have the potential to sell as well.

Make the most of this planting season, and create a garden that will give you both joy and savings. We can’t wait to see what you and your family create, be sure to post photos of your outdoor creations on our Facebook page. We’d love to see what ideas and hacks you use!

7 Items Worth the Splurge

Spending

When you make your savings plan, you often don’t think about the things you should spend extra money on. While scrimping on other items such as groceries or kids clothes could help you in the long run, there are some expenditures that could cost you in the future if you don’t pony up for the better option. At Titonka Savings Bank, we suggest taking a second look at these seven products, and seeing if you need to upgrade the next time you buy:

Toilet Paper: You may not think it’s necessary, but let’s be honest; when you’re staying at a hotel that doesn’t have the good stuff, you notice. Household items such as toilet paper or garbage bags are bought to complete a task, and if they don’t complete it well or comfortably then it’s time to reconsider your options. We believe this product is worth the extra couple bucks, but we do recommend saving by buying in bulk!

Office Chair: If you’re like many Americans, you may spend a majority of your day sitting down. To avoid chronic back pain, and a slew of other ailments, we recommend investing in a comfortable and reliable office chair. If your employer is willing to pay for all or a portion of the chair, be sure to offer your measurements to be sure their options fit your height and weight specifications.

Mattress: Did you know you spend 33 percent of your life sleeping? For such a large portion of your time, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best sleep possible. Avoid those box store less costly options, and test out a few of the higher end options available in your budget. Not only can you sleep better, but you may find yourself spending less on coffee or energy drinks as well.

Pillows & Bed Sheets: While the mattress will make the biggest impact on the quality of your sleep, upgrading your thread count and purchasing the proper pillows can make a world of difference as well. Something as simple as changing the firmness of your pillow could help you sleep through the night more soundly.

Work Clothes: Sweats, shorts, and other home attire may not require the added expense, but the clothing that you wear to portray yourself at work should come across as professional while also remaining intact over time. We suggest finding one or two brands that fit both your budget and your style, and selecting key basic pieces to compile a wardrobe of endless combinations.

Garbage Bags: Do you enjoy it when you go to take the trash out in the early morning and just as you reach the bin, the bag breaks across your feet? No, neither do we. We agree that it is more than worth the extra dollar or two for the name brand bags that won’t break. After all, if the bag breaks, that means you’ll need to take a shower too!

Data Plan: Every cell phone provider seems to come out with a brand new plan option as soon as a new phone is released. While the choice of phone is completely up to you, we think that the data plan should cover not only what you think you’ll use, but some buffer room too. Instead of paying the expensive overage fees every time to go over your data limit, we recommend purchasing a more comprehensive plan to ensure you have a little extra space when you need it.

These seven things will prove their worth in the long run, and many items only require a one-time investment. If you have any other items you think we should add to our list, let us know on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!

Planning Your Spring Garden for the Best Return

Seasonal

Spring is still just out of sight, but for prospective spring gardeners, the time to start seed germination is almost here! With seeds for some summer produce taking up to three months to prepare for planting, planning ahead of time can truly make or break both personal and commercial growers. Before you start organizing your garden for the season, we offer these helpful tips to help you make the most of your agricultural investment:

Grow Heirloom: Tomatoes are a staple of countless summer gardens, but what will differentiate your juicy produce from other countless selections at the market? Variety! With new strains of tomatoes being discovered each year, blue, striped, and white fruits can offer your family and customers a unique and delicious twist on a summertime classic. The basic large red tomato has an average price point of approximately $3.50 per pound, but smaller heirloom varieties often go for more than $5.00 per pound. With one plant typically producing over 20 pounds of fruit, you could easily make $100 off of one heirloom plant!

Learn to Preserve: Once you’ve harvested the tomatoes grown above, you can continue to tack on the savings by processing those fruits into recipes that can be canned. Packaged goods like salsa and pasta sauce can run about $3.00 a piece, however, you can create a pantry full for the low cost of the plants and reusable mason jars.

Add Some Flavor: Personal herb gardens have continued to grow in popularity over the past several years, and 2017 is no different. With many urban gardeners opting to plant their own seedlings, you’d think the retail need would decrease. However, the opposite may be occurring. With an influx of gardening comes an influx of use. Many home cooks are beginning to learn the benefits of using fresh herbs, and they’re not always cheap. Generally, a small bunch of herbs can run between $1-3. This in mind, most healthy plants are able to produce a consistent amount of bunches throughout the summer, and even into fall. If you have one plant that offers 50 bunches at $2 apiece, that’s a simple $100 earned for just one plant.

With so many incredible plant varieties to choose from, we’re sure your next garden will be a success! Whether you’re planning to sell your crops at the weekend farmer’s market, or stock a pantry your grandmother would be proud of, the practice of gardening has proven to be a money saver for you and your family. If you have any other great gardening tips, be sure to share them with us on our Facebook page.

 

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 Titonka Savings Bank, we can assist you in coordinating all your accounts to help make the most of your money. Stop in and see us today!