Monthly Archives: December 2015

Budgets, Accounts and Retirement: Back to Financial Basics

financial basics

No time to waste – let’s get back to basics. Below, a refresher on the fast facts of three financial topics you should know before heading into the new year, courtesy of Titonka Savings Bank:

Creating a Monthly Budget: How-To

  1. Categorize your expenses: Break up what you spend into obvious categories, like housing, food, auto, and personal. Then identify essentials from extras, starring the things you can’t live without and the one or two “extras” that add much-needed meaning to your life.
  2. Identify what’s earned, estimate what’s spent: You can’t budget if you don’t know what you’re working with. Nail down exactly what you bring in each month with income after taxes and other side sources of cash flow, and subtract from it an estimate of what you typically spend in 30-days. This allows you to see if you’re saving, breaking even, or coming up negative.
  3. Know where you’re going: If you have nothing you’re working towards, what’s the point of a budget? Pick a goal – paying off debt, buying a car – and rework your numbers from steps 1 & 2 to create a way to get there.

Understanding the Top 3 Bank Account Options

  1. Savings: Use this one to save money first and foremost. Make deposits and withdrawals, but writing checks may be off the plate. Check up on your monthly or quarterly statements of these transactions to stay in line.
  2. Basic Checking: Draw money for checks from this account. Typically, they don’t pay interest, and you may face an added fee for writing more than a certain number of checks each month.
  3. Certificates of Deposit (CDs): Also called “time deposits” because of the holder’s agreement to keep money in the account for a specified time (three months, six years, etc.). Money here can’t be touched during that time, but it’s rewarded with a higher interest rate. Drawback: big penalties for withdrawals before the maturity date.

Launching a Retirement Plan

  1. Know Your Needs: Your current age, expected age of retirement, amount currently in savings, and other factors are needed to determine how much you need to set aside. Check out a nifty retirement calculator for a rough estimate.
  2. Check Your Employer’s Plan: If your employer offers a 401(k) or similar plan, hop on it. Lowered taxes, matched contributions from your business, and automatic monthly deductions make savings a breeze.
  3. Start saving ASAP: Compound interest is a beautiful thing. Saving smaller for a longer length of time often yields more benefits than if you start saving big late in the game.

We barely skimmed the surface. Get in touch with one of our financial advisors to dig deep into any of these categories in the upcoming year!

5 Gift Ideas for the Last-Minute Shopper

last minute gifts

The countdown to the holidays is on. Have you tackled your gift list yet?

If the answer is “Well, I’ve been meaning to…”, there’s not much time left to place thoughtful orders online without paying insane express delivery fees. You could make a dash to the store last minute, but what good’s a present if there’s no thought behind the giving? Your friends at Titonka Savings Bank have made last-minute gift ideas a snap with these inexpensive yet personal present suggestions:

  1. Tap the App store: If your gift recipient is app-happy, gift them a few new apps from the Apple store. Sent directly from your personal device, choose the “Gift This App” option to deliver it to another’s iPad, iPhone, or iPod in a matter of moments. (Android’s Google Play doesn’t offer this option yet, so make sure their device is iOS compatible.)
  2. Compile a memory bucket: For $5-$10, you can stuff a creative container (think lanterns, shower caddies, etc.) with snacks and trinkets that commemorate your relationship. Dollar stores, bargain bins, and thrift stores are perfect for padding this gift, as the goal is quantity and not quality of materials (although the memories they represent are top notch!).
  3. Personalize a mug: Most dollar stores carry mugs that can easily be customized with the help of a Sharpie. Doodle on it a favorite quote, their lesser-known nickname, or an inside joke they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere online, and stick it in the oven to bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees to seal it on. Bonus points if you stuff the mug with packets of their favorite hot drink.
  4. Whet Their Appetite for a Dinner Date: Rather than a gift card to a restaurant, gift a symbolic item promising they can redeem it for the real thing with you later. Do they love barbecue joints? Wrap up a bottle of their favorite sauce. Are they a fan of that Thai place down the street? Gift a jar of gourmet peanuts. They’ll love the excitement of a two-part present.
  5. Where you met: For friends and significant others, commemorate the first time you met with an inexpensive memento of that location. If it’s a coffee thermos from the café or a homemade pendant of the city where your paths collided, they’ll remember the launch to your relationship every time they use it.

You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to make your gifts matter. Meet with one of our financial advisors who can help you decide how you allocate your cash this month and beyond by giving us a call!

Test Your Credit Card Knowledge

credit cards

Convenient, fast, and handy, it’s no wonder that 75% of Americans have at least one credit card to their name. Besides being convenient, credit cards can boost your credit score, increase your chance of securing a loan, and lock it in at a lower interest rate if you’ve got a boast-able number. If they’re so valuable, what do you actually know about this powerful little tool? Brush up your credit card knowledge with a quick quiz below (answers at the bottom):

1. Let’s begin. What exactly IS a credit card?
a. An instant bank loan you agree to pay.
b. Technology that lets consumers draw money straight from their checking accounts to pay for purchases.
c. The bane of your existence.

2. What does “APR” stand for?
a. Accelerated percentage rate.
b. Annual percentage rate.
c. Anticipated performance rate.
d. Average projection rate.

3. True or False: You’ll never pay interest if you pay your credit card bill in full and on time.
a. True.
b. False.
c. True – unless you use convenience checks or get cash advances.

4. Can your interest rate change at any time and for any reason?
a. Yes, but only after going through the Federal Reserve Board for permission
b. Yes, after giving consumers 15 days’ notice.
c. No. The issuer is bound by the terms of the contract, just like the consumer.
d. No, thanks to the landmark 1987 Supreme Court ruling in

5. Canceling a credit card does what to your credit score?
a. Increases it.
b. Decreases it.
c. Has no impact.

6. The interest rate on a variable rate credit card is based on what components?
a. Your average daily balance multiplied by the prime rate.
b. The collateral, the principal, and the late fee.
c. The prime rate, plus the federal funds rate.
d. The prime rate, plus a margin.

7. Which does NOT affect your credit score?
a. Payment history.
b. Amount owed.
c. Length of time you’ve had credit.
d. How much new credit you have.
e. The mix of credit types.
f. Whether you own versus rent your home.

8. Credit card finance charges can go as high as:
a. 3 percent
b. 13 percent
c. 23 percent

9. Every card has it: what does PIN stand for?
a. Personal Identification Number
b. Prior Investment Number
c. Provider Identification Number

1(a), 2(b), 3(c), 4(b), 5(b), 6(d), 7(f), 8(c), 9(a)

How’d you do? If you landed a 6/9 or below, it may be helpful to get in touch with one Titonka Savings Bank’s expert, who’ll help you make the most of your credit card habits. We’d love to hear from you!

5 College Graduate Tips for a Successful Financial Future

financial tips

Millennials – those aged 18-25 – have a financial war to wage. When 7 out of 10 college graduates are leaving in debt to the tune of $29,000 and hopping into starting salaries that can’t keep up, money is often a sore and scary subject. Knowledge is power, however, and these financial literacy lessons for Millennials from Titonka Savings Bank may help turn the tides for a more financially secure future:

  1. Spend like a student until you’re not paying like one. Some classmates may get a lucky break from the get-go, landing jobs with salaries that help them pay off their debt fast. Others hop into the workforce with a clean slate thanks to scholarships and grants that prevented debt. If you’re not in either camp, don’t spend like you are. When they’re buying new cars or moving to expensive cities, continue spending as frugally as you did in college until you can afford otherwise.
  2. Harness the power of compounding. Start saving ASAP. For a car, for a house, for retirement, it’s never too early to start setting aside a portion of your income for later. When faced with bracing against a monsoon of student debt, a consistent, small addition to savings can rack up big interest in the long-term.
  3. Take advantage of employer-sponsored plans. If your company offers a 401(k) or similar retirement plan, jump on it. Small, regular paycheck deductions create a consistent boost in your savings without the temptation of spending. Also, deductions reduce your taxable income, meaning less income tax is lifted from your paycheck.
  4. Cash isn’t always better than credit. Cash may help you limit splurge purchases and stick to a budget, but it can’t build your credit score. When it affects your ability to secure a loan, the interest rate you’ll pay on it, and at what credit limit, your score can’t be taken lightly. 35% of your rating is simply based on making your payment on time, so make monthly online purchases and grocery charges with your credit card so you can easily pay off your balance in full each month.
  5. You can’t learn everything online. Yes, the Internet gives access to tutorials and FAQs and budgeting programs that can help you manage your financials. However, it can’t fully replace the expert opinion of someone trained to diagnose and treat your unique financial ailments. Maintaining a relationship with a financial advisor is invaluable, as they walk with you through the peaks and valleys of your monetary journey and can guide you in the right direction.

Today is as good as any to learn how to manage your money. Give us a call at Titonka Savings Bank to meet with one of our advisors and kick start your successful financial future.