Category: Personal Finances

Friday Night Lights: The Impact Sports Can Make

Lacing up their cleats. Stretching before the big game. Countless hours practicing. In the moment, your child might not realize it, but they’re doing more than just preparing to win a championship or set a new state record. They are developing skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Sports have long been known to not only help kids develop physically but mentally and emotionally as well. In addition to becoming physically fit, do you know the other benefits of your kids participating in youth sports?

  1. Develop Teamwork and Leadership Skills – Like most things in life, especially in the work place, projects are rarely a solo venture. Generally, you’re working alongside others to accomplish a common goal. Athletics create a wonderful environment to help kids learn how to cooperate with others, be responsible and take accountability for their actions and decisions. If someone misses the shot, they own it. If there isn’t cooperation on the field, it’s noticeable. With 75 percent of employers saying teamwork and collaboration is “very important,” it’s a great soft skill to help instill in your kids at a young age.
  2. Strategic Thinking – Participating in sports is more than just kicking a ball around or running laps. It’s about planning ahead, reading your opponent and developing a game plan. Much like the skills required for managing personal finances, sports help develop those strategic thinking skills and encourage forethought prior to making decisions. In addition to those skills, sports also fosters discipline, which is great to have in many facets of life including savings for future purchases or even retirement.
  3. Build Confidence – With the intention of being a fun outlet for young athletes, sports can also play a dramatic role in helping boost and build one’s self-confidence. Through sports, players learn to not fear failure, learn how to work towards a collective goal and the see firsthand the importance of preparation. It’s also a great way for children to learn about weaknesses and the benefits of practice and persistence.

While most athletes won’t go on to be professionals, they will reap the benefits of being exposed to sports and the life lessons that come along with being on a team. If you’re looking to help your student athlete become more prepared for the world of finances, we encourage you to stop on by one of our locations and learn about which products/services might be right to help set them up for future success.

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.

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.

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!

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

Savings

At Titonka Savings 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 had adequate time to save for each time period’s necessities.

 

Continue to grow your finances as you grow your family using Titonka Savings Bank’s trusted deposit services. We’ll help you organize your funds, and make the most of your savings.

 

7 Financial Goals to Make 2017 a Success

Financial Goals

Titonka Savings Bank challenges you to make 2017 the year of financial prosperity. Complete with an emergency fund, sound credit, and a monthly budget, you can conquer any fiscal goal so long as you keep moving towards it. To optimize your money management potential, we recommend these seven goals:

 

  1. Check Your Credit Score. There are many websites available which allow you to view your current credit score across the three reporting bureaus. However, the only federally authorized FREE site is annualcreditreport.com. This site gives users one free report from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian every year. By keeping regular track of your score, you can ensure that no fraudulent inquiries have been made, and no outstanding debts are currently being held against you. After all, a higher credit score could mean potential savings elsewhere.
  2. Make a Monthly Budget. This tool is invaluable when building your personal financial success. By creating a plan for each dollar you earn you are no longer reacting to your spending, but proactively telling your money where it should go. Adding this transparency to your spending can often showcase areas where you may be spending more than desired. After adjusting your monthly allocations you can then reassign some of those dollars to help build your personal savings and other areas of improvement.
  3. Automate Your Savings. “Out of sight, out of mind,” or so the saying goes. Adding processes to your budget, such as automated savings, can help you to accumulate money before you miss it. Before you start planning your spending for the month, determine how much you want to save. So long as your fixed monthly expenses are covered, you can then create an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings. By doing this the same day you are paid, the funds will be gone before you even know to miss them. You can then budget the rest of your spending to cover flexible categories like groceries, entertainment, and more.
  4. Start an Emergency Fund. In order to safeguard your savings, you’ll need to create an emergency fund. This particular account offers protection against unexpected expenses or dilemmas that could otherwise infringe upon your diligent accrual of funds. It is often recommended to begin by saving $1,000, and then gradually work up to three or six months worth of income. By adding this cushion to your personal finances, you ensure that you are financially stable enough to weather storms both big and small.
  5. Submit Your Taxes Early. Tax fraud is an increasingly relevant issue, posing many problems for both the IRS and tax paying citizens. To help avoid potential criminals from using your information to their benefit, we suggest completing your tax return as soon as possible. Additionally, if you have a potential tax refund, the earlier you file your return, the sooner you are able to receive it.
  6. Maximize Your 401(k). To make the most of your diligent savings, we recommend revisiting your HR materials, to find out the specifics of your company’s 401(k) plan. If they will match up to ten percent, and you’re only contributing six, you could be missing out on free funds! Additionally, if you want to retire by a certain age, you may need to adjust your contributions to maximize the years you still have during your employment.
  7. Pay Down Your Credit Cards. Interest rates on credit cards are infamous for being consistently high. If you have multiple credit cards which carry a balance, we recommend paying down the account that has the least amount on it. By continuing to pay the minimum installment on each card, you can then assign any additional funds to the card with the lowest value, to help pay it off sooner. Once the first card is no longer carrying a balance, you can then utilize the monthly installment and the additional funds to put toward the next card, and continue through the accounts.

Tax Beneficial Accounts You Need to Use

Personal Finance

One of the most proactive ways you can protect your personal finances is to take advantage of tax beneficial accounts such an HSA, 401(k) and IRA. Though these accounts are typically tied to retirement savings, this is not always the case. At Titonka Savings Bank we want to help you make the most of your money, by offering these three account options:

Health Savings Account (HSA): Currently tied to your insurance provider, this account allows you to save pre-tax income into an interest bearing account. The funds within this account can be rolled over yearly, and are meant to help supplement the cost of various medical and childcare needs. However, there are limits on how much you can save for this account, the 2017 limit for an individual is $3,400 a year, and $6,750 for a family. You can typically access these funds using a debit card or written check to cover qualifying expenses outside of your insurance offerings. Another great perk of this account is that it can be invested. To further grow your funds you can work with a financial adviser to invest in mutual funds, stock, and bonds to help your money mature.

Work Sponsored Retirement Account (401k): Many companies now offer this account as a corporate benefit. By automatically withdrawing pre-tax dollars from your monthly income, you are able to save for retirement before you even receive your paycheck. The funds you contribute, along with those matched by the company, can then be invested into a variety of options, pushing your money to continue multiplying. Since these funds are meant to act as retirement savings, any early withdrawals have a 10 percent penalty in addition to the income taxes due. However, once you reach age 59 ½, you can start taking regular distributions from this employer-sponsored plan.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): This is a great example of a non-work sponsored retirement account. Generally offered in two versions, the Roth IRA, and the Traditional IRA, both offer various tax incentives so you get the best bang for your buck. Each account has a contribution limit of $5,500 a year, or $6,500 for those age 50 or better.

In a Traditional IRA, you contribute pre-tax dollars into an interest-bearing account, which can then be invested into an array of opportunities to expand growth. If you want to remove funds from this account prior to age 59 ½ however, you will incur 10 percent early-withdrawal penalty along with paying State and Federal taxes. At age 70 ½, the account requires you to begin taking minimum distributions. This retirement savings option is open to anyone, with no immediate requirements.

With a Roth IRA there is no age requirement for distributions, and after five years, you can withdraw as much as you like up to the total amount of contributions. The only amount you cannot withdraw is the added interest earned after contribution. The main tax benefit with a Roth IRA, opposed to the Traditional IRA, is that contributions are post-tax dollars, but distributions bear no tax. This means if you are in a higher tax bracket upon retirement, you do not have to pay additional taxes to withdraw those funds, potentially keeping more of your savings. This account option does have an income limit, which disqualifies single filers whose adjusted gross income is more than $132,000 or $194,000 for joint filers.

Start maximizing your money and look into your account options today! Stop by Titonka Savings Bank and our team can answer any questions you have. With our experienced lenders, we can help you choose the best accounts to get the most value out of your long-term savings.