News for YOU! is a free, monthly newsletter provided by KS StateBank that offers tips and other information to help you make wise financial choices. Please feel free to sign up now to receive new editions of our newsletters each month, as well as other updates. You can also subscribe to our business newsletter, Business News for YOU!
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|April 2015||The Smart Way to Use Your Tax Refund|
Nearly eight out of 10 U.S. tax filers will receive a federal tax refund this year. As you await your reimbursement from Uncle Sam, consider these five tips for making the most of your tax refund.
If you have questions regarding any type of account, don’t hesitate to give us a call or stop by a branch. Or, check out our website to learn more!
|Scams: When Telemarketer Calls Don't Ring True|
Federal rules prohibit a variety of unfair or deceptive advertising practices, and they enable consumers to stop most telemarketer calls by placing their personal phone and cell numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov). We’re discussing telemarketing calls this month because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other agencies have reported increases in complaints involving telemarketers that may be perpetrating scams or otherwise violating federal and state laws.
According to the FTC, the vast majority of the violations of the do-not-call rules involve "robocalls," which are pre-recorded phone messages that companies send to thousands of phones at the same time. Some companies continue to make robocalls to people who have signed up for the Do Not Call Registry, using fake "caller IDs" that make them hard to identify or trace. These calls might be scams.
Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC's Financial Crimes Section, explained one scam involving a pre-recorded message supposedly from a financial institution or a government agency, describing some "urgent" matter. "If you return the call, you might be asked a series of personal questions using the touch-tone keypad on your telephone. The information you are asked to provide, such as account numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), birth dates, and passwords, can be used to access to your bank account or commit identity theft," said Benardo.
He added, "Your financial institution or a government agency would never contact you asking for such information. When in doubt, call your institution or the government agency that the call is supposedly from by using a phone number that you know or that you find, not the number in the message."
Because it may be difficult to get your money back, remember the following:
If you get a robocall, hang up. Don't press "1" to speak to a live operator and don't press any other number to (supposedly) get your phone number off a call list. Doing so will probably just lead to more robocalls.
Never give out personal identification information over the phone unless you initiate the call and know the other party is reputable. This includes bank account and credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, account passwords and PINs.
Thoroughly check out any offer before agreeing to it. Always ask for key details in writing. Carefully read all applications and contracts so that you understand your potential costs, risks and requirements. You also can research an offer with help from your state or local consumer protection agency (start at www.usa.gov/directory/stateconsumer) or your state Attorney General's office (http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php).
Assume that any offer that "sounds too good to be true" — especially one from a stranger or an unfamiliar company — is probably a fraud. "Common examples of scams include fake lottery winnings, bogus job offers, and promises of an investment paying significantly above market rates," said Kathryn Weatherby, a fraud examination specialist for the FDIC.
Resist pressure to make a decision immediately. Here are a few red flags that can help you spot a scam:
If you think you're a victim, file a complaint with the FTC (at ftc.gov/complaint or toll-free at 877-382-4357) and with your police department. For more tips on topics like reducing robocalls, avoiding phone scams and stopping unwanted mail and calls, start at the FTC's website (www.ftc.gov).
|Easter Egg Safety|
It's a spring ritual that brightens holiday Easter tables and the faces of children and adults alike. It's Easter egg coloring. And with all the creative coloring kits on the market, there's no shortage of ways for families to come together, have some fun, and show some creativity. But Easter egg coloring is about more than choosing the right color; it's also about safety and ensuring you protect yourself and your loved ones from illness.
To help ensure your safety, we've put together these helpful tips:
Planning an egg hunt?
If you want to use real eggs for an Easter egg hunt, be extra careful. Never hide cracked eggs or place them in areas where chemicals are sprayed. Make sure the eggs are not left outside unrefrigerated for more than two hours. For more information on egg coloring safety and decorating tips, visit paaseastereggs.com.
|March 2015||Creating a Budget|
Do you know how much you spend each month, as it compares to how much you’ve made? Creating an accurate budget will help you get a handle on your monthly spending and savings goals. The key to creating a good budget is to include as much information as you can so that you can adequately prepare and plan.
So, how do you get started?
First, write down your current income. This total should include all money coming in each month, starting with your take home pay (your salary minus taxes and deductions)… but don’t forget any tips, child support, investment income, etc. that you might get regularly.
Then, start a list of your monthly expenses. For monthly bills that vary month-to-month, create an average (for example, if your cell phone is $45 one month and $55 the next, estimate $50 per month). For annual bills, divide the yearly cost by 12 to get your monthly figure. Don’t forget about non-utility expenses, either… eating out, shopping trips, even your grocery bill needs to be included.
Once you have a comprehensive list, subtract your expenses from your income. How’d you do?
Take charge of your finances today. Set some goals, establish a reasonable budget and then stick to it. You can do this!
|The Chore of Teaching Kids Responsibility|
It's no secret that teaching children to become responsible and independent adults is one of the most important tasks for a parent. What many parents don't often realize, however, is the fact that those lessons should start when children are young. Here are some great ways to foster independence and responsibility in young children:
While it's hard to see our children grow up, teaching them independence and a strong work ethic is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Best of all, it doesn't come with an expensive price tag.
|World Water Day—March 22, 2015|
Water is one of the most basic of all needs—we cannot live for more than a few days without it. And yet, most people take water for granted. We waste water needlessly and don't realize that clean water is a very limited resource. More than 1 billion people around the world have no access to safe, clean drinking water, and over 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation service. Over 2 million people die each year because of unsafe water—and most of them are children!
World Water Day, observed on March 22, is an important opportunity to educate ourselves and our communities about this most vital of all resources, explore ways to conserve it and protect the waters of our rivers, lakes, oceans and streams. It's a chance to address the issue of helping those without access to clean drinking water. World Water Day is also a time for ethical and moral discussion about water rights, particularly the growing trend of corporations taking over community access to water.
For more information on World Water Day visit the Official UN-Water website.
|February 2015||Are You Using Text Banking Yet?|
Text Banking is a free service offered by KS StateBank for all clients. You can register for the service directly through your Mobile Banking app, or if you don’t have the app, you can call Client Care and they’ll get you set up. It’s important to note that you don’t need a smartphone to use this service!
Text Banking allows you to check your balance or see a list of recent transactions by simply texting a short code to us. Again… even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can use this service!
That said, if you do use our Mobile Banking app, you can sign up for the additional benefits of Text Alerts. You can set up a number of alerts to let you know when a check clears, when a deposit has been made, or even just a weekly balance alert. All sent via text to your phone, without logging in.
If you’re not using this service yet… you should check it out. Learn more.
|Your Financial Records: What to Toss and When|
Bank statements, credit card bills, canceled checks and other documents can be useful for tax purposes, as proof of a transaction or payment, or for other reasons. But how long should you keep them?
We can't tell you when it's safe to throw away financial documents, you should definitely check with your tax advisor for more specific timelines. However, it’s important to point out that federal tax rules require you to have receipts and other records that support items on a return for as long as the IRS can assess you additional tax.
With tax considerations in mind, here are suggestions that may be reasonable for many people.
Credit card and bank account statements: Save those with no tax significance for about a year, but those with tax significance should be saved for seven years.
Canceled checks: Those unrelated to anything you claimed on your income tax form and not needed to show you've paid a bill or debt probably can be destroyed after you've verified that your bank statement is correct. But canceled checks that support your tax returns, such as charitable contributions or tax payments, probably should be held for seven years.
And, you may want to keep indefinitely any canceled checks and related receipts or documents for a home purchase or sale, renovations or other improvements to a property you own. But once a home has been sold and another seven years have passed, checks related to renovations or improvements can be destroyed.
If you keep records electronically, be sure to back up your data. You can store it in various ways (on CDs, flash drives, etc.), but as old technology is no longer supported, you will need to transfer your old data to new media. Another option is to research different companies that provide backup storage online, either free or for a small charge.
Deposit, ATM, credit card and debit card receipts: Save them until the transaction appears on your statement and you've verified that the information is accurate. You may make an exception for receipts for expensive items. If they are under warranty or you have to file an insurance claim, the receipt may be helpful.
Finally, before tossing away any document that contains a Social Security Number, bank account number or other personal information (especially financial information), shred it to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
|9 Easy Ways to Improve Your Credit Score|
Forty-three percent of consumers know their credit score, a key metric that helps determine whether they can get credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and insurance coverage, according to a recent survey by the American Bankers Association (ABA). Whether or not they know their score, consumers can take action now to understand and protect their credit.
“The more you know about your own credit history, the better you can position yourself for lower rates when applying for a loan or insurance coverage,” said Nessa Feddis, ABA’s senior vice president and deputy chief counsel for consumer protection and payments.
Credit scores are reflective of a person’s creditworthiness and are based on their credit reports, which indicate whether a person pays their bills on time. Lenders use a consumer’s credit score to decide whether to lend them money and at what rate. Credit scores are also used by organizations for screening insurance and other applications. Consumers receive their credit score when they apply for a mortgage, if they are turned down for credit or if a bank used their credit score to determine their interest rate. Some banks will supply their customers with a complimentary credit score from one of the major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—or consumers can pay to obtain their score directly from a credit bureau.
“If you check your score and don’t like what you see, you can take action today to begin improving it,” said Feddis. "While there is no overnight fix for a low credit score, paying your debts on time and demonstrating that you can manage credit responsibly can help you gradually rebuild your score.”
Below are tips from ABA to help consumers improve and maintain their credit scores:
For more tips and resources on this and other personal finance topics, visit aba.com/consumers.
|January 2015||8 Things Cyber Criminals Don’t Want You to Know|
For all the internet’s advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams.
“As online and mobile banking become increasingly popular, it’s critical that customers work in tandem with banks to keep their money and information secure,” said Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association. “Banks continue their fight against cybercriminals, but the more precautions we all take, the safer our accounts will be.”
ABA offers the following tips to help consumers stay safe and secure online:
For more information, and for tips to protect your mobile device, your identity or your small business account, visit aba.com/consumers.
|Tips for the New Year|
It's that time of year—the time to ring out the old and ring in the new, to stop bad habits and replace them with good ones. We can't help you lose weight, eat right, or recycle more, but we can give you some suggestions to help you whip your finances into shape. Here are some tips for the New Year.
Good luck with all of your New Year’s resolutions. We hope you have a fantastic and financially secure 2015.
|Game Planning for a Super Football Party|
America loves football. And there's no better time to celebrate football season than the month of January when professional playoffs and college bowl games are in full swing. And while you may not be able to join the crowds at the actual games, you can bring your own crowd into your home with a super football party. Here's an easy-to-follow game plan for wowing your friends and family:
Set your roster. The key to a successful party is determining whom you will bring together. Will your party be for serious, diehard football fans or for casual observers? You wouldn't want to put a football fanatic next to someone who has no interest in the game. It's important to know your guests' football interests, so you can make sure you can accommodate them all.
Ready the home field. Get out your "footballware." Football-themed plates and napkins are a great way to show your spirit. Hang streamers and banners of your favorite team. Maybe even throw on a football shirt of your own.
Prepare your concessions. You can score points with your guests by having the right snacks. Of course, you'll want the usual snacks, such as chips and dip, nachos, chili, and vegetable dip. For a list of super food ideas, including dips, sandwiches and other football-themed delicious treats, visit foodnetwork.com.
Make the best seats in the house. Arrange your furniture and chairs so that all guests can have a clear and comfortable view of the game. If your party spills into other rooms, make sure you have a TV or radio set up in each room, so football fanatics don't miss a play.
Get in the game. Prior to the game, ask your guests to submit a prediction for the score after each quarter and for the end of the game. Then award fun little prizes to the person who makes the right prediction.
By following these simple steps, you'll ensure a winning event no matter what the score.