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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 2014   Mobile Security
   

We read recently that more people now own smartphones than personal computers. Whether or not that’s true, we know that we’re almost all guilty of wanting our news, information, even shopping to be easier, faster and more accessible.

We want it, and we’re getting it. As mobile technology advances, it’s important to remember that there are security precautions we can all take to protect ourselves, and our information.

Passwords
Did you know that most smartphones have the ability to be password protected? By default, your device probably is set to unlock with a simple “swipe.” However, setting the unlock security to be a swipe pattern, PIN or password can significantly improve your protection in the event you lose your phone.

Also, it’s wise to set any of your password protected apps (including your KS StateBank Mobile Banking app) to not remember your User ID’s and passwords. And as always, don’t keep a list of User ID’s and passwords in your notepad or in any files on your device.

Apps
The App store that you use by default tries to keep out fraudulent or dangerous apps. Unless you innately trust a vendor, it’s smart to only download apps from the App store for your device. Smartphones actually have a setting that will block downloads that are attempted from sources outside of the true App store… but you have to turn it on for it to protect you.

Antivirus Software
This isn’t just for computer users any more. Did you know that you can get antivirus software for your phone? You can, and it’s easy. Just go to your App store, and find one that you trust. There may be versions which are free and some you may purchase; we recommend you obtain antivirus software from a recognized and well-known vendor. Some smartphones may even come with an antivirus software app already loaded. These will scan for malware and other dangerous systems, further protecting you.

Websites
Sometimes it’s just easier to grab your phone when you want to buy something, than to go through the trouble of moving to your computer. Just remember that the same good practices on ordinary websites also ring true on mobile sites. Look for the “https://” at the beginning of the URL. Make sure you are really on the site you intend to be on. And, never store your credit card number on your device.

Remember that these are simply a few of the things you can do to protect yourself. Think about what would happen if someone got ahold of your phone—would they be able to access your private information? Stay safe!

     
    Do you have an Emergency Fund?
   

While not the most exciting of budget categories, it very likely could be one of the most important. Emergencies happen; and often times they have the most unfortunate timing. But with an emergency fund, the situation won’t be quite as stressful… because you're prepared.

Creating a Plan. Keep in mind that there are several types of emergencies that you should plan for. Loss of income emergencies, should you lose your steady paycheck, can dramatically impact your life—if you suddenly have less money coming in, but the same expenses needing to go out, what will you do? Expense emergencies that come up are even more of a surprise most times—if you came home to a flooded basement because of busted pipes, are you prepared to quickly fix the problem?

Saving Smart. The experts recommend you keep your emergency fund as cash in a savings, checking or money market account. If you’re looking for accounts that may earn more interest on your money, you can even look into a CD or an IRA. Just keep in mind that with certain types of accounts, there may be early withdrawal penalties to access your funds. If the benefits outweigh the penalties, you may go that route. The most important thing to remember when saving your emergency fund is putting it somewhere that gives you easy access to your money when you need it.

Getting Started. It’s recommended that you keep at least three to six months of your living expenses in your emergency fund. Sound hard to achieve? Sure—if it was easy, you’d already have one! So start small. Think you can try for $50 a month? How about $100? Set a starting amount and use discipline to put that amount away each month—better yet, open your new account and then ask your employer to start direct depositing $50 from each paycheck into that account. If your employer doesn’t offer direct deposit, treat it like a bill. Transfer the money or write a check to your savings account when you pay your other bills. If you never see the money, perhaps the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind” will work for you.

Using your Funds. Determine what your emergency savings are to be used for, and stick to it. Dinner and movie is probably not the best way of spending this money nor is buying new furniture. But having a plumber come in to fix busted pipes that are spewing water all over your basement, that sounds like it might be worthy of your emergency cash. Only you can decide how to use your savings. Just remember, whenever you use money out of your emergency fund, you’re going to need to replace it as quickly as you’re able.

     
    April 22 is Earth Day!
   

Earth Day is a good time to remember the importance of protecting our environment. Environmental action means taking the simple steps in the different places where we all live. Make every day Earth Day and commit to at least five actions to protect the environment all year long. Whether you choose to make changes at home, work, or in your community every little bit helps our environment. Here are a few ways you take action and make a change.

  • Sign up for E-Statements to reduce paper usage
  • Use Mobile Deposit to limit the need to drive to the bank
  • Find Energy Star products for your home to reduce energy usage (and your monthly bill)
  • Choose water-efficient products
  • Learn about recycling opportunities at work and in your community

 

Learn more about how you can get involved at epa.gov.

     
     
March 2014   Getting a Tax Refund?
   

If you’re one of the lucky ones that will be getting a tax refund this year, congratulations! There are few things better than getting a check from Uncle Sam that you weren’t expecting. So, what do you plan to do with your newfound funds?

Will you save it? Take a trip? Pay down debt?

Before you plan your Caribbean vacation, we recommend you take a look at your financial picture. Yes, it would be nice to take that money and do something completely fun and frivolous… and maybe that’s the right move for you. But, perhaps you could take that money and pay off a high interest credit card. Or, maybe you could pay off your student loans. Maybe you could finish your basement and build equity in your home.

What you do with your tax refund is entirely up to you. But, looking at your full financial picture before you make any decisions could help you in the long run.

     
    Ways to Improve Curb Appeal
   

Spring is in the air, and that means longer days, warmer temperatures, and precious time in the great outdoors. And since you'll be spending so much more time outside, spring is a great time to give your home's exterior a boost.

Here are a simple and inexpensive ways you can improve the appearance of your home:

Freshen your front door. After a long winter, front entryways and doorways can become tired and worn. A smart way to awaken them is to apply a fresh coat of paint. Be sure to paint the trim around the doorway.

You can also dress up your front door with a nice craft or decoration, such as a spring wreath.

Buy a fresh mat. It's the start of a new season, so replace your welcome mat with a fresh clean one.

Replace doorknobs, knockers, and other hardware. You can freshen up a dull entryway with shiny new fixtures, such as doorknobs and knockers. Changing fixtures can make your door seem new.

Get new house numbers. Over time, house numbers can get rusty and old. Replacing them with shiny new numbers is a very inexpensive way to freshen up your home.

Replace door lighting. Everything looks better in the right light. That holds true of your front entryway. Consider replacing old rusty lights with fresh lights.

Freshen your mailbox. Don't forget your mailbox; it's part of your house, too. Consider giving it a paint job or purchasing a new one. If it's in your budget, add a fancy wooden or granite post.

Paint shutters. You don't need a complete paint job to make your house pop. To save money, simply take down your shutters and paint them. You'll be surprised the difference a fresh coat of paint can make.

Add some new greenery. Do you have shrubs and bushes that are overgrown or damaged? Consider replacing them with new shrubbery. At the very least, trim your shrubs and clean up the area or beds where they lie.

Paint railings. With a can of spray paint, you can give new life to tired old metal railings. If you have wooden railings, give them a fresh coat of paint or stain.

By taking these simple steps, you'll improve your home's "curb appeal" and make your neighbors happy, too.

     
    Do you have questions? We can help find answers.
   

Should I rent… or buy? How much am I worth? How can I pay off my credit cards? When will I be able to afford to retire? How much can I save over the life of my loan if I make bi-weekly payments, instead of monthly?

These questions and more probably run through your head occasionally. But where can you go for answers? Easy. We have over 50 financial calculators in the Resource Center on the KS StateBank website that can help you answer these questions. You can also visit our Learning Center that offers links to helpful tips and financial education materials. Start planning today!

     
     
February 2014   Protecting Your Financial Privacy
   

As your banking partner, it’s our job to make you feel as safe and secure as possible when it comes to your financial privacy. That’s something we take very seriously. And, we spend a lot of time and energy making sure you have what you need to stay safe.

For example, we have always warned against sending confidential information via email. That holds true for traditional email… however, because we know that sometimes there are things that you need to get to us, we’ve added a “Confidential Email” link on our website which allows you to securely “email” us any information you may need to send. With the levels of security behind this web form, your financial information is protected when you send it… and you don’t have to mail something in or come into the bank. Nice, right?

Also, you can send us messages and documents at any time through the “Secure Message” link in Online Banking. Just let us know what you’re sending or what you need, and attach any documents to the message. Our Client Care team can securely communicate back and forth with you until your issue is resolved.

Speaking of Online Banking… we protect your accounts with industry leading security settings but we also offer Secure Tokens for anyone that is interested in adding even more security to their accounts. A Secure Token is a small device that you could keep on your keychain, at your home or at your office, that displays a randomly generated code that would be required to log into your account (if you sign up to have one). These tokens are inexpensive (just $12/year) and may give you extra peace of mind if you’re concerned.

COMING SOON: We’re currently working on establishing a system for fraud alerts. These will work via text message and you can keep instant tabs on your accounts. Watch for more information in your inbox soon.

     
    Hiring a Contractor
   

Spring is just around the corner (hopefully!), and springtime tends to inspire many people to start doing home improvements and renovations. If you’re planning any projects that will require hiring a contractor, here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission for making sure you are getting a competent and reliable one.

Home improvement and repair and maintenance contractors often advertise in newspapers, the Yellow Pages, and on the radio and TV. However, don't consider an ad an indication of the quality of a contractor's work. Your best bet is a reality check from those in the know: friends, neighbors, or co-workers who have had improvement work done. Get written estimates from several firms. Ask for explanations for price variations. Don't automatically choose the lowest bidder.

Interview each contractor you're considering. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How long have you been in business? Look for a well-established company and check it out with consumer protection officials. They can tell you if there are unresolved consumer complaints on file. One caveat: If there is no record of complaints against a particular contractor that doesn't necessarily mean no previous consumer problems. It may be that problems exist, but have not yet been reported, or that the contractor is doing business under several different names.
  • Are you licensed and registered with the state? While most states license electrical and plumbing contractors, only 36 states have some type of licensing and registration statutes affecting contractors, remodelers, and/or specialty contractors. The licensing can range from simple registration to a detailed qualification process. Also, the licensing requirements in one locality may be different from the requirements in the rest of the state. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area. If your state has licensing laws, ask to see the contractor's license. Make sure it's current.
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year? Ask for a list. This will help you determine how familiar the contractor is with your type of project.
  • Will my project require a permit? Most states and localities require permits for building projects, even for simple jobs like decks. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project. Be suspicious if the contractor asks you to get the permit(s). It could mean that the contractor is not licensed or registered, as required by your state or locality.
  • May I have a list of references? The contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three clients who have projects similar to yours. Ask each how long ago the project was completed and if you can see it. Also, tell the contractor that you'd like to visit jobs in progress.
  • Will you be using subcontractors on this project? If yes, ask to meet them, and make sure they have current insurance coverage and licenses, if required. Also ask them if they were paid on time by this contractor. A "mechanic's lien" could be placed on your home if your contractor fails to pay the subcontractors and suppliers on your project. That means the subcontractors and suppliers could go to court to force you to sell your home to satisfy their unpaid bills from your project. Protect yourself by asking the contractor, and every subcontractor and supplier, for a lien release or lien waiver.
  • What types of insurance do you carry? Contractors should have personal liability, worker's compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they're current. Avoid doing business with contractors who don't carry the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you'll be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.

 

Your home is likely your most valuable asset, and having a contractor that you trust will give you the peace of mind that you’ll be satisfied when the project is complete. Consider the answers to these questions, along with the bids, and you’re on your way to finding a good fit for your home and your project.

     
    Fun Valentine’s Day Facts
   

February 14 is Valentine’s Day. Whether you celebrate this holiday or not… here are a few fun holiday facts that we found that may surprise.

  • According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately 190 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine's Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion. (This total excludes packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges.)
  • The average person celebrating Valentine’s Day spent nearly $130 in 2013 according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Boxes of chocolates have been around for more than 145 years! The first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868.
     
     
January 2014   Save Money and Make Life Easier
   

Are you using Online Bill Payment yet? With KS StateBank's Online Banking, you not only have instant access to your account balances, you have access to absolutely free Online Bill Payment.

If you haven't tried it yet, you should. It's free. It's easy. It's fast. You can probably pay all of your weekly bills in the time it would ordinarily take you to write one check. And, since you only have to log into one website--ours--you don't have to worry about remembering multiple user names and passwords!

Still not convinced? Consider this... on January 16, 2014 the United States Postal Service® will be increasing the cost of first class stamps from $0.46 to $0.49. 

If you're still paying your bills "the old fashioned way" you're going to be out even more money each month. Why not save yourself some money, and some time, and give Online Bill Payment a try today? 

Get more information by visiting our Learning Center!

     
    Home Makeover: Indoor Edition
   

Winter may have you spending more time in your home, but that doesn't mean your home improvements have to stay dormant. There are still plenty of things you can do inside your home to improve its appearance, keep you busy, and most importantly, beat those winter doldrums. Best of all, you don't have to spend a fortune in the process. For example... 

Rearrange furniture.
One of the most affordable and easiest ways to give your home a new look is to rearrange the furniture. You can rearrange furniture in a single room or shuffle pieces from other rooms in your house. You'll be surprised at how moving a few pieces of furniture can change the entire feel of a room.

Awaken tired walls. Nothing makes a room look newer than a fresh coat of paint. Painting a room in a brighter color is a great way to brighten up the dark days of winter. Also, consider painting your trim around doorways to freshen the look of your house.

Re-fixture your cabinets. Tired of looking at the same-old kitchen cabinets? Give them a fresh look by changing the handles and fixtures. The right fixtures can make all the difference and will save you the high cost of having to replace your cabinets.

Re-grout tile. Do you have tile in your bathroom or kitchen that looks old and worn? Over time, grout between your tiles can get dirty. For a fresh new look, re-grout your tile with a new color. It's time consuming work, but inexpensive.

Another way to give your bathroom a refresh is to replace worn faucets and fixtures.


Clean your garage. Looking to get more space in your garage? Winter is a great time to get organized, and give yourself more space to work or store items.

Light up your home. See your home in a different light. Literally. Consider purchasing new lamps and lighting fixtures to give your home a brighter, new appearance.

These simple projects are great ways to spruce up your home. After all, if you're going to spend your winter indoors, you may as well be surrounded by beautiful scenery.

     
    January is National Blood Donor Month!
    American Red CrossAccording to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the US needs blood. However, less than 38% of those eligible to donate blood do. For a time commitment of just over an hour, your donation could save up to three lives. If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to help others, this is your chance! Contact your local hospital or American Red Cross to find out how you can help.
     

     

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