Tag Archives: personal finance

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.

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!

6 Steps to Scoring Your Savings Goal

Savings

Do your savings goals make you feel frozen? Get back on the ice this season, and let Titonka Savings Bank help you win your personal financial game. We’ll show you how to keep pushing forward with these strategic hockey tactics:

Find the 5-hole.

One of the first and most important ways to save is to keep your eyes open! Whether it’s taking advantage of grocery store specials, buying household items in bulk, or cutting spending from your monthly budget, the biggest opportunity you have while saving money is continually searching for new ways to save.

Complete the hat-trick.

Before you start saving for the short-term items, be sure you have the long-term set in place. Just as in hockey, there are three things you need, to make the best play of the game. Start by setting up an emergency savings account, to help guard your savings. Follow up by opening a personal retirement account such as IRA, to continually grow your savings. For the last trick of the play, we suggest creating a 529 or Coverdell account to help save for your child’s future education. These three accounts will help not only you score your savings goals but will assist you in winning your entire financial game as well.

Put your debt on the boards.

Show your debt whose boss, and push them against the glass. By aggressively paying off your outstanding debt, you make additional funds available to further your monthly savings. We recommend paying the minimum payment on each debt, and then using any surplus funds to add extra payments to help pay it off sooner. Once you have paid off a debt, use the funds from that allocation to help erase the next obstacle, one payment at a time.

Place your spending in the penalty box.

While working on your savings goals, look into your monthly spending to see where you can cut costs. Consider reducing your funds for eating out and entertainment. The extra money can go towards your debt, or once paid off, can help you achieve your savings goal sooner!

To help, there are some innovative apps available that can you visualize your various expenses.

Beat the buzzer.

Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. Like hockey, if you don’t play until the end, you may lose the game in the last five minutes. To help prevent this, we recommend working with a personal financial adviser, ensuring your funds are in the right place at the right time. If you make a pass and transfer them to stocks too late, you could lose money and valuable time. We suggest creating a strategic and well-coordinated retirement plan to make certain all your savings get time on the ice, and your key players continue to stay in the game.

Drop your gloves for additional fees.

Whether it’s big banks searching for unnecessary add-ons, or potential financial advisers looking for a percentage of earnings, don’t be afraid to negotiate fees you deem excessive. The business is certain to have referees to let you know if you’re asking too much. However, it never hurts to ask!

With our affordable deposit accounts and expert financial coaching, we look forward to helping you sink your upcoming goal in the back of the net! Stop by and meet our dedicated team today!

Fix-Up Your Budget

Budgeting

HGTV’s latest hit show, Fixer Upper, has fans and home buyers looking for new ways to save and restore old homes. While Chip and Joanna have become experts in home renovation, they’re not too shabby when it comes to finances either. Using their home building skills and our banking knowledge we offer these top tips to help fix up your budget in 2017:

  • Build a Strong Foundation

Just as a home cannot stand without a solid base, neither can your personal finances. To begin building the foundation to your finances, it is imperative to start a monthly budget. This system can help you organize how much money is coming in and out each and every month, allowing you to allocate funds for both spending and saving.

  • Make the Most of the Unexpected

Shiplap has become a household world thanks to Joanna’s love of this Texas home material. Often covered up by sheet rock, it is always a great find to add something special to the house. Similarly, should you uncover any income that you weren’t expecting, we suggest making the most of it by contributing to your IRA or other savings fund.

  • Take Advantage of Open Space

It seems every time Joanna finds a wall in a home project, you hear the words, “Open space.” By constructing areas that are connected instead of separated, she’s uncovered a way to not only make a home more welcoming but your spending too. Add this concept into your budget, and enjoy the feeling of flexibility in your monthly allocations. If your household remains stocked from bulk ordering, or your entertainment is your kiddos for a month, embrace those savings and shift your spending to another room of the house.

  • Always Take Free Advice

Chip and Joanna offer endless tips and tricks to their home flipping business. Always full of great ideas, and sage advice, these two make a consistent effort to give their viewers a leg up on their next home project. Similarly, our team at Titonka Savings Bank wants to help you work to achieve your next financial goal! Whether it’s saving for your first home, purchasing a new vehicle, or setting a plan for your retirement, we’d love to offer our experience to help make your financial dream a reality.

Whether you watch Fixer Upper every week or are just starting this addicting series, we hope you keep your eyes peeled for other great financial tips. You may find more money management advice than you’d think!

How to Save for Retirement at Every Age

Retirement Savings

How much do you need to retire? Will you continue working after age 65? Do you want to travel during your retirement? These are just a handful of questions that are important for retirement preparation. Unlike saving for a home or new vehicle, saving for retirement requires long-term commitment and goal oriented benchmarks. At Titonka Savings Bank we want to help you succeed as you save, and offer these milestone marks:

Age 18-25: During this point in your life, you are discovering what you want to do, and how to get there. Focus on creating a solid foundation through a monthly budget, and designated emergency fund. If your employer offers a 401(k) option we highly recommend utilizing its potential by contributing the maximum amount your budget will allow. Always be sure to take advantage of a company matching policy if available.

Age 25-35: In addition to your 401(k), we also suggest opening an IRA. This enables you to continue to save without having your funds tied to an employer. Now is a great time to take advantage of other tax beneficial accounts, such as an H.S.A., 529, or Coverdell account. Both the 529 and Coverdell accounts aide you in saving for your child’s education without the burden taxes.

Age 35-45: One of the key aspects of retirement is making sure your money is where you need it when you need it. An experienced financial adviser can help you invest in appropriate stocks, bonds, and other financial strategies. Together you can construct a plan to ensure your risk decreases as you age, and be certain the funds you need are available upon retirement.

Age 45-55: Now is the time to examine your current career path, and determine the year at which you would like to retire. Although the average age of retirement is 66, this may not hold true for you. Whether you decide to retire later at 72, or earlier at 57, you’ll need to have this number available to help continue the development of your savings. To easily calculate your current savings projection, this tool can provide the most accurate information to help you make the most informed decision for your specific goal.

Age 55-66: During this time you may begin to qualify for distributions from your 401(k) and IRA. By postponing these distributions, you can continue to save, and work to build your retirement nest egg before you need it. Additionally, look into various employment options upon retirement. If you decide to work part-time for enjoyment, it could mean added savings to help you afford extra splurges in the future.

Age 66 and up: Once you have officially retired, you will begin to take distributions from your 401(k) and IRA. While both a 401(k) and Traditional IRA require you to accept funds after age 70 ½, a Roth IRA can remain untouched until you decide to use the money. For this reason, we recommend using a Roth IRA when your income levels allow.

We look forward to joining you on your journey to retirement. Whether it’s in 10 years or 50, it’s never too early to start saving!

Ultimate Guide to Garage & Yard Sales

Saving Money

With pockets full of dollar bills and a list of dream finds in hand, serious garage sale goers are perking up for the upcoming season. Become a pro deal-spotter by harnessing some of their top tricks of the trade!

  • Check for warranties: Even if they’re dinged or damaged, goods by brands like Craftsman and Chaco may offer lifetime warranties if you send them in for repair. Avoid: Electronic-based gadgets – everything from blenders to tablets – as they’re likely past warranty and cost more to repair than buy new.
  • Snap up fun novelty items: Infrequently used finds like wedding accessories, costume sets, and kitchen appliances can be pricey when purchased brand new. You can buy these gently-used finds for a fraction of the original cost! Avoid: Holiday-themed wares that you’ll use once, store for the year, and toss out at your own yard sale.
  • Think a few seasons ahead: A summer yard sale will be loaded with wintertime treasures. Scope out pricier outerwear like parkas and boots, while keeping your eye out for cross-country skis, durable metal shovels, and other seasonal goods marked at a steep discount. Avoid: Cold weather apparel worn close to the skin, such as hats and long underwear. Also, be wary of major items like snow blowers and snowmobiles, which may require costly repairs that outweigh the price of a newer model.
  • Shop for the kids: When they’re set to outgrow clothes every few months, garage sales are a treasure trove of inexpensive apparel for infants through teens. Be on the lookout for limited-use clothing like costumes and formalwear to save big during special occasions. Avoid: Cribs and car seats which are frequently recalled, soft toys that can’t be easily washed or sterilized, and truly vintage toys which may pose the risk of lead-based paint.
  • See Beyond the Paint: Furniture can be a phenomenal find if you’re willing to pin some extra effort. A new finish or a fresh coat of paint can make all the difference on wood & metal furniture. Avoid: Mattresses and upholstered items which may have unknown stains or trapped in odors.

 

Top 5 Budgeting Apps to Get You Organized

Mobile Apps

Have you noticed yourself hitting the “check out” button a little more frequently when you shop on your phone? You’re not alone. In 2015, mobile commerce grew to a staggering 30% of all U.S. online shopping. This shows a growing trend of mobile purchasing moving billions of dollars in sales via handheld technology.

While smart phones enable spending, they can also be powerful tools for strategic saving. Check out these top budgeting apps and learn how to easily keep track of your finances.

  1. By pulling all your balances and transactions into one simple design, Mint allows you to see the big picture. You can add accounts, cards, and bills and track spending patterns and investments in real time. A budget calculated by your average spending will break down where your cash is flowing from month-to-month and year-to-year so you can watch your savings progress over time. (Free)
  2. If spur-of-the-moment spending is your weakness, PocketGuard is here for you. Connecting directly to your bank accounts, the app’s home screen tells you how much you’ve spent for the day, week, or month in relation to your income. With transactions automatically updated 24/7 you have an instant visual of your personal cash flow. (Free)
  3. Level Money. This helpful app aids you in spending for the short-term and saving for the long-term. By analyzing your income and expenses, Level Money reveals a daily allowance to help you save for a larger purchases or pay down debt. Connect the app straight to your bank account and create goals for saving and spending, all backed by a planning module that sends reminders and encouragements to help you stick to your goals. (Free)
  4. You Need a Budget. YNAB operates on 4 Rules; Give every dollar a job, save for a rainy day, roll with the punches, and live on last month’s income. This app adjusts your entire budget to prevent overspending. This app also ensures a constant safety cushion of funds so you’re never scrambling to cover unexpected expenses. ($5/month or $50/year)
  5. Good Budget. Unclutter your envelope budget with this exciting app. Instead of juggling a stack of envelopes for different expenditure categories, you can open digital folders on one simple screen. For joint accounts, you can easily synch the app with your spouse across multiple devices to prevent double dipping into funds. ($15/3 months or $24/6 months)

If you’re ready to take the first steps in re-evaluating your budget stop by Titonka Savings Bank today. With knowledgeable lender, we’re here to answer all of your budgeting needs.

The Dos and Don’ts of Debit and Credit Cards

Deposit Account

This week we are excited to dive into the Do’s and Don’ts of Credit and Debit cards! Offering two very similar, but uniquely different services for your financial needs, these cards can help you to reign in your finances and grow your credit score when used properly. Learn all about these tips and tricks courtesy of Titonka Savings Bank.

Debit Card: A card issued by a bank, that is tied directly to a checking or savings account, which allows money to be electronically transferred from one bank account to another when making a purchase.

DO

  1. Use for daily transactions. It’s always great to have a paper trail reminding you of your purchases.
  2. Balance your check book. Sometimes charges such as gas or dining can take several days to run through so be sure to keep track of your spending by balancing your checkbook weekly.
  3. Be careful when entering your PIN when others are watching.
  4. Sign up for Bolt$, a mobile app that allows you to receive fraud alerts & block & unblock your own card. (Available with a TSB Shazamchek Debit Card.)

DON’T

  1. Spend more than you have in your account. Overdraft fees are no fun for anyone!
  2. Postdate transactions if funds are not readily available in your account.
  3. Give your PIN to anybody!

Credit Card: A small plastic card that is offered by a bank or other financial institution, allowing the card owner to purchase goods and services on credit.

DO

  1. Use for online expenses through secured vendors. Many discounts may be offered online only and can save you and your family a bundle.
  2. Pay your bill in full each and every month, if you able to. You can avoid interest rates and other timely fees by not extending your balance over the next month.
  3. Use your credit card as often as you can to accumulate ScoreCard cashback. (Available with a TSB VISA credit card).

DON’T

  1. Spend more than you have allocated for the month. Paying more for interest and other fees is money wasted.
  2. Open too many credit card accounts. Keep one or two cards that you use and pay each month to help boost your score.
  3. Max out your balance, even if you pay it off each month this can potentially damage your credit score and serve as a red flag to potential lenders.

Get started on your finances today with a secure credit or debit card from Titonka Savings Bank! We’ll help you understand the ups and downs of each and find the best solution for you and your needs.

From Plant To Pour: 10 Steps to Coffee Consumption

coffee

10-Steps for Coffee Consumption

Whether it’s iced, pressed, decaffeinated, or steamed, coffee in the United States is a staple in the daily routine of over 50% of the population. For energy, for social gatherings, or for the sake of routine, consumption of caffeinated brews create an $18 billion industry in the U.S. each year. However, after the average cup of joe in 2015 rang in at $3.28 – higher than mugs in 2013 and 2014 – consumers may wonder what they’re actually investing in. Take a look at the journey your java travels from bean to latte!

  1. Planting: After a bean is dried, roasted, ground, and brewed, its coffee! When left in its natural state, it’s a seed that grows into a thriving coffee tree. Planted in shaded nurseries away from bright sunlight, coffee seeds are repotted in special soil after sprouting.
  2. Harvesting: It takes almost four years for a new tree to produce bright red coffee beans, commonly referred to as cherries. These cherries are picked by both hand and machine, eventually arriving at a processing plant.
  3. Processing: To prevent spoiling, harvested beans must be processed as soon as possible. Companies using a dry method spread the beans in the sun, turning them each day to even the drying. This process may take several weeks to complete. Alternatively, a wet method separates pulp from its skin, allowing the beans to ferment and leaves only the bean’s meat.
  4. Drying: An additional step in the wet version of processing, drying is a crucial step in the bean’s journey. Spreading them in the sun or passing them through a tumbler, the beans become dry and are ready for the next step.
  5. Milling: Dried husks are removed from the cherries, followed by sorting beans by size and weight. Additionally, they’re graded on a scale of 1-5, with Grade 1 beans exhibiting the highest quality taste, acidity, and aroma and Grade 5 beans revealing defects in more than 86% of the sample batch.
  6. Exporting: Now considered green, finished beans are loaded in bulk and sent worldwide.
  7. Tasting: During this step commonly known as cupping, professional tasters sample the brewed product and rate it on factors like visual appearance, scent of grounds, and variant flavors in each sip of a blend.
  8. Roasting: Placed into roasting machines approximately 550 °F, beans are heated until they turn brown, releasing caffeol, the natural oil responsible for coffee’s iconic aroma. They are then quickly cooled by air or water, completing the roasting process. This step is performed just before sale to consumers, preserving freshness and flavor of the coffee beans.
  9. Grinding: The different variations of coffee beverages are the result of overall choices on the coarseness of the grounds and length of time spent brewing. An espresso, for example, uses finely ground beans in a fast prep process, whereas a traditional coffee pot relies on coarser grounds in a longer brew.
  10. Brewing: Machine, water quality, coffee-to-water ratio, temperature, additives, and brew time all alter the effect of the final cup of coffee. The brew is the final step to achieving the end result of a delicious cup of coffee. With so many variables and potential additives, the list of coffee beverages is seemingly endless!

With such a long journey, that $3.28 doesn’t seem so unreasonable now, does it?

Shelling out a couple bucks for a latte here and there won’t break the bank. Making it a daily routine, however, could. Our financial planners at Titonka Savings Bank can help you budget personal expenses so you can have your coffee and drink it, too. Stop by and share a cup with us today!