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|July 2015||Start Your Marriage on Strong Financial Footing|
Summer wedding season is in full swing and newlyweds will soon be managing their finances as a pair. Couples should waste no time addressing how they will handle money issues as spouses and financial partners.
Whether you are in the process of planning a wedding, you just got back from your honeymoon, or are the parent of someone that is about to be married, here is a list of tips that new couples should consider to start their marriage out on strong financial footing:
|What To Do If Your Identity's Been Stolen|
You've heeded all the warnings and taken all the precautions. But the fact is, there is a proliferation of skilled identity thieves out there, they are good at what they do, and anyone can get caught up in an identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following if it happens to you.
If you suspect that your personal information has been used to commit fraud or theft, take the following four steps right away. Follow up all calls in writing; send your letter by certified mail, and request a return receipt, so you can document what the company received and when; and keep copies for your files.
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports.
In addition to placing the fraud alert on your file, the three credit reporting companies will send you free copies of your credit reports, and, if you ask, they will display only the last four digits of your Social Security Number on them.
2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Avoid using easily available information, like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security Number, your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
3. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
You can file a complaint online at ftc.gov/idtheft. If you don't have Internet access, call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338); TTY: 866-653-4261; or write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
|National Anti-Boredom Month|
"I'm bored; there's nothing to do." It's that dreaded phrase that every parent will hear at one point or another during summer vacation. The painful truth is, with the structure of the school day gone, many kids and parents can struggle with how to fill the extra time. In the spirit of National Anti-Boredom Month in July, here are some tips to brighten summer days and turn family boredom into family bonding:
|June 2015||Talking to Children about Money|
In many families, talking about money can be uncomfortable, and in some cases, almost taboo. When children request something that costs more than the family is comfortable spending, children of different ages react differently. Young children may not have an understanding of the item's cost relative to the family's finances. And a teenager's "need" may be viewed as an "extravagance" by the parents. These simple ideas can help foster two-way conversations between parents and children, as well as a basic understanding about the value of money.
It is never too early to help your child develop a healthy respect for money and to develop some good financial habits. The practice of using an allowance can be worthwhile if it does the right things. If your objective is to teach the basics, consider the following:
This is often the most difficult time for children to deal with financial issues. Peer pressure, a desire to keep up with what their friends have, and the growing realization that they can't have everything they want can add tension to any conversation about finances. However, it is also the time when children can begin to understand more complex financial issues, and when financial habits are formed.
The allowance approach gets more complicated in the teenage years as the costs of desirable items increases, and they are drawn to more activities that cost money. This may be a good opportunity to discuss how a job could help them afford the things they want. After-school and summer jobs are an ideal way for teenagers to learn that money is earned, and not something that mom or dad will always provide. A job will also teach young adults about responsibility, since the employer will be relying on them to be present and punctual. If an outside job is not possible, consider paying your teenager an hourly rate for additional chores, and insist they treat the chores as a job.
Helping teenagers establish a checking account, or even preparing their own tax returns, will go a long way to helping them understand that money is a serious matter, and that someday they will need to be self-sufficient and make their own financial decisions. If they get a checking account, be sure you teach them how it works and how to reconcile the account every month.
Keep the conversation going.
Be open to discussing finances with your children. Kids are naturally curious about what they see their parents doing and that curiosity can be easily turned into teaching opportunities. Whether it’s while you’re paying bills, or when the stock market activities are reported on the news or when your child is choosing a college, take advantage of these moments. By the time your child is ready to leave home, they will have a foundation to better prepare themselves for their financial future.
|My Planning Your Perfect Summer Vacatioin|
As the days get longer and the weather continues to warm, thoughts turn to the anticipation of making summer memories. Summer and vacation are synonymous, but ensuring those memories are positive requires a bit of advance planning. Read on for some ideas for creating a unique vacation tailored to your interests.
Decide WHAT you want to do before making any plans.
Unstructured outdoor activities like beaching, hiking or camping can be relaxing and inexpensive. What better way to reconnect with each other than being surrounded by the great outdoors. Look into state and national parks or concentrate on a favorite location and do some exploring from there. Be sure to check ahead of special events that may affect your schedule. And have a backup plan if the weather isn't what you anticipate.
Amusement or theme parks are memorable and fun but could be on the pricier side. Be sure to do plenty of research ahead of time to find deals on travel and accommodations, special events schedules and meal options. Following a carefully crafted plan can reduce stress, but be sure to plan for flexibility if things don't go according to plan.
Visiting with out-of-state family is a great way to reunite and make lifelong memories. Plan a family reunion, take trips together as a group or just enjoy time together. The time spent together can often be more important than planned activities.
Use the Internet, chambers of commerce, travel clubs and word-of-mouth recommendations to do your research. Once you decide what kind of vacation you want to experience, it's time to look into the logistics.
Is your vacation a one-stop deal where you hop on a plane, arrive at your destination and don't move until it's time to go home? Or will you be in your car every day moving from destination to destination? Consider not only how you will get to your destination, but also how you'll move around once there. Car rental, taxis, shuttles and other modes of transportation have the potential to add significant cost to your vacation and may need advanced reservations. Be sure to check into all options before leaving home.
Do you consider the ideal vacation a suite in a four-star hotel or a tent pitched in the wilderness? Will each member of your group need their own space or can everyone sleep together for some family bonding? This is especially important to consider if staying as a guest in someone's home or in shared space like a hostel or hiking hut.
Consider some of these unusual options for accommodations:
Once all the arrangements have made and you're on your way, slip yourself into vacation mode. Reflect on what it is you were looking for in your vacation—relaxation, family time, exploration or simply escaping the every day—and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
June is here. And it's a great time to get fired up with the start of the summer season and the opportunity to take advantage of one of the season's greatest perks—barbecues. And while outdoor grilling can make hamburgers, fish, and vegetables even tastier, it does present some dangers. In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), outside cooking grills cause more than 6,000 fires and $35 million in property loss each year.
To avoid a dangerous fire from happening in your backyard, follow these simple steps:
|May 2015||What's This Computer Chip Doing in My Credit Card?|
You’ve probably started hearing about EMV or chip cards.In fact, you or someone you know may have recently received a new credit or debit card and noticed that it contains a computer chip. If you don't have one of these cards yet, you can expect to receive one by late 2015. But, why?
A microchip makes it less likely your card will be used for a fraudulent transaction in person, such as at a store. "Compared to the magnetic stripe cards that we are accustomed to, it is much more difficult for criminals to create fraudulent cards that contain microchips," said Jeff Kopchik, a Senior Policy Analyst at the FDIC. "Many European countries have been using chip cards for several years, and fraud rates for in-store transactions in those nations have declined significantly."
Why is the chip card more effective in preventing the use of fake cards? "The chip will change the encrypted numbers for every transaction to ensure the authenticity of the card each time it is used," added David M. Nelson, an FDIC Examination Specialist. "Hackers trying to get chip card authentication numbers are chasing a moving target that will be useless to them."
You still need to be on guard against fraudulent purchases made with your card online, over the telephone or by mail. Unlike with in-store transactions, there is no card-reading device receiving the secret, one-time authentication code from the microchip that verifies the card's authenticity. Kopchik said this largely explains why there was a significant increase in online card fraud in Europe immediately after chip cards were introduced.
What can you do to protect yourself? As with any credit or debit card, monitor your account on a regular basis and report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution as soon as possible. If your chip card is used in a fraudulent transaction, your liability will be limited by federal rules. Also under the rules, your card is considered stolen if a hacker steals your account information electronically.
You may need to begin using a PIN for credit card transactions. While chip cards are most effective against counterfeiting, they provide less protection if your chip card is stolen and used by a thief in person at a store or other business. To provide further protection in these circumstances, many chip cards will require the user to enter a personal identification number to authorize a transaction. This is similar to what debit card users have done for years.
Expect to find a different type of card payment terminal at stores. You may already have noticed these new terminals at a few large stores. With some of them, the chip card is inserted into the terminal, similar to an ATM. "Just make sure you don't get distracted, leave your card in the reader and walk out of the store without it, which people have been known to do," warned Nelson.
For other payment terminals—those that accept what are called "proximity cards"—all you have to do to pay is to place your card in front of the reader or gently tap the card against the reader.
Initially, your chip cards will probably also have the conventional magnetic stripes on the back. This will allow you to use the card at merchants that have not yet upgraded to the new payment terminals. "Your new chip card may take some getting used to, but the added security is well worth the effort," added Kopchik.
The microchip simply contains the same personal information that is printed on the outside of the card. Nelson noted that the chip in the card contains no personal information about the cardholder other than his or her name and account number, which also is the same as what is stored on the magnetic stripe.
If you are planning to visit Europe, you may want to request a chip card from your financial institution. That's because many European merchants no longer accept magnetic stripe cards.
Expect to receive more information regarding these new EMV or chip cards in the coming months as it relates to your KS StateBank credit and debit cards.
|Rental Listing Scams|
Moving to a new city? Planning a vacation? As you consider issues like size, cost and location of the rental, also consider this: that rental listing could be a scam.
Scammers often advertise rentals that don't exist or aren't available to trick people into sending money before they find out the truth.
How Rental Scams Work
Scammers know that finding the right apartment or vacation rental can be hard work, and a seemingly good deal is hard to pass up. They’ve been known to use that to their advantage when posting fake rentals on websites and bulletin boards. The take-away: when you're looking for a rental, renters beware.
Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.
Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren't for rent or don't exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.
Signs of a Scam
Being savvy when you're in search of a rental is well worth the effort. Here are some signs you may be dealing with a scam:
They tell you to wire money. This is the surest sign of a scam. There's never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month's rent, or vacation rental fee. That's true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash—once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
They want a security deposit or first month's rent before you've met or signed a lease. It's never a good idea to send money to someone you've never met in person for an apartment you haven't seen. If you can't visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it's for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that's a clue it may be a scam.
They say they're out of the country. But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an "agent" working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Don't send money to them overseas. If you can't meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. What if the rental itself is overseas? Paying with a credit card, by PayPal, or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets.
How to Report Scams
If you find yourself the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency and to the FTC. Contact the website where the ad was posted, too.
|Tips for Opening Your Pool for the Season|
May is the month for blooming flowers, warmer temperatures, cookouts, and the unofficial start of the summer season—Memorial Day. And for many others, it marks opening season on a very special time of year—swimming pool season. Experienced pool owners know that there is a lot more to opening a pool than just taking off the cover.
Once you complete these steps, be sure to take one extremely important final step that makes your hard work worthwhile—jump in.
|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.