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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:

  1. Have the money talk. Discussing your finances can be a bit uncomfortable for many couples, but those who tackle it head-on will be better for it. Understand your partner’s financial goals and spending habits. While you may have different answers, this conversation can help you develop an approach to money management that works for both of you.
  2. Set a budget. A mistake many couples make is not establishing a budget early on. After assessing your finances as a pair, determine how you’ll spend your money each month. Are there certain expenses that you should be cutting back on and others you should be saving up for? Coming to an agreement on these things and setting a budget will be beneficial for the health of your bank accounts and your relationship.
  3. Have a plan for your accounts. There is no ‘right’ way to manage your accounts. Couples can choose to have exclusively joint accounts, a joint account as well as separate accounts for saving or personal spending, or keep things entirely divided. Discuss your preferences together and decide what makes you both the most comfortable.
  4. Set up an emergency fund. Life is full of surprises and unfortunately, some of these surprises can be expensive. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid precarious financial situations should something come up. It’s important that you decide together how you’ll set aside the money.
  5. Establish a minimum cost for discussing big expenses. While not all purchases demand a conversation, more expensive ones that impact the family budget should. Determine what that threshold is as a couple. For any expenses above that cost, you both should be in agreement on whether it’s a necessary purchase.
  6. Be sure to update your beneficiaries. Once you’ve officially tied the knot, you should likely identify your spouse as the person who will receive the benefits of your will, life insurance policy and financial accounts like your 401(k), checking and savings. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for an emergency to arise to handle this.
     
    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.
Contact any one of the nationwide credit reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too.

  • Equifax: 800-525-6285; equifax.com
  • Experian: 888-397-3742; experian.com
  • TransUnion: 800-680-7289; transunion.com

 

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.
Contact the security or fraud department of each company where you know, or believe, accounts have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It's important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.

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.
Get a copy of the police report or, at the very least, the number of the report. It can help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime. If the police are reluctant to take your report, ask to file a "Miscellaneous Incidents" report, or try another jurisdiction, like your state police. You also can check with your state Attorney General's office to find out if state law requires the police to take reports for identity theft. Check the Blue Pages of your telephone directory for the phone number or check naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General.

4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC also can refer your complaint to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws that the FTC enforces.

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:

  • Play outside. There's no reason to be bored on a beautiful day when there's so much to do outside. Go for a bike ride, take your dog for a walk down a new path, cover your whole driveway in chalk drawings, or organize a baseball game in the neighborhood.
  • Cool off with water. You don't have to be a kid to love to cool off and enjoy a little fun. The next time you water your grass or garden, take a run through the sprinkler. Or get out your squirt guns and some water balloons and have a good old-fashioned water fight.
  • Invite friends over. If the weather isn't ideal, throw an indoor party. Invite your friends and their kids over to play a fun card or board game or to watch a movie or sporting event. Bake delicious treats.
  • Get exercise. Summer is the best time for activity. Go swimming, kayaking, or hiking. Or just pack a delicious lunch and go on a picnic in a park. Be sure to bring along a Frisbee.
  • Volunteer. There's no more rewarding way to spend your time than spending it helping others. See if you can volunteer your time at the local food pantry or spend time with seniors at a nursing home.
  • Visit a museum. There's so much to explore, and this can be a day trip that's fun and educational! Many museums offer free or discounted admission in the summer.


The most important activity is to have fun. Summer is only here for just a few weeks; make the most of it.

     
     
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.

Young children

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:

  • Set a weekly allowance to match the age of the child; perhaps a five year old receives $5 weekly.
  • Tie the allowance to some required chores like setting the table for dinner. If the chores aren't done, withhold allowance for that week.
  • Divide the allowance into three spending categories — 1/3 for immediate spending, 1/3 saved for some specific near-term purchase (like a small new toy) and 1/3 for a longer-term goal (like a major new toy).


Teenagers

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.

Activities

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.

Transportation

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.

Accommodations

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:

  • Visiting family or friends is an inexpensive option for visiting a different location and has the added benefit of catching up in a relaxed environment.
  • Feel the need to get out of the city? Have a friend who is feeling a bit isolated in his/her home in the mountains? Arrange to swap homes for a week.
  • Perhaps you know someone who has a vacation home you can borrow or rent or barter for some time in.


What's the point?

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.

     
    Barbecue Safety
   

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:

  • Position your grill at least 10 feet away from the house and other outdoor structures.
  • Keep your grill away from trees and shrubs.
  • Never use your grill under overhangs or carports or inside covered areas, such as your garage. You will not only run the risk of damage from the flames, but also risk exposure to carbon monoxide.
  • Always place your grill on a flat surface to ensure it doesn't fall or move during operation.
  • Do not wear loose fitting clothes while tending to your grill.
  • Keep children away from the barbecue and never leave your barbecue unattended.
  • Regularly clean your grill to remove grease and grime buildup.
  • Do not overload your grill with too much meat. Excess grease or fat will cause the flames to increase.
  • If you have a propane tank, do not overfill it.
  • Be sure to keep a fire extinguisher, water bottle, or hose near your grill in the event of fire.
     
     
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.

Hijacked Ads

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.

Phantom Rentals

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.

  • Be sure to sweep and remove any dirt or debris from the cover and deck.
  • Remove and clean the cover. Allow it to dry (to prevent mildew) before folding and storing it away for the summer.
  • Unplug all piping, both in the pool and at the filter system area.
  • Connect the pump, filter, and any other additional equipment you might have (booster pumps, heaters, etc.).
  • Don't empty your pool. When you remove your pool cover and see the state of the murky water, it's easy to think that you should just drain the water and start fresh. However, pool experts caution that removing the water is a "no-no." The weight of the water on the ground, particularly in high water table areas, can lift some pools right out of the ground.
  • Clean up the pool and the area around the pool. Be sure to clean out all the baskets and carefully clean and assemble the filter.
  • Add water if needed. If the water level has dropped, raise it by adding fresh water.
  • Get your water tested. Most pool stores will test your water for you at no charge. They will assess the mineral content, pH, and chlorine levels, and will tell you how to adjust the levels.
  • Adjust your chemicals. Based on the testing results from the pool store, make necessary chemical changes.
  • Be patient. While you may be anxious to jump right in, it's important that you allow time for the pool to clear. In general, you can expect it to take about a week for the water to be safe and clear.
  • Vacuum your pool. Be sure to vacuum all debris and leaves that have accumulated on the bottom of the pool.
  • Test your water quality regularly throughout the season. You should test the levels of your pool every day with a test kit, and vacuum often to ensure your pool stays healthy for the season.

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.

  • Save for emergencies. Open or add to a high-yield savings account that serves as an “emergency fund.” Ideally, it should hold about three-to-six months of living expenses in case of sudden financial hardships like losing your job or having to replace your car.
  • Pay off debt. Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
  • Save for retirement. Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. Where can you get one? KS StateBank can help you set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored.
  • Put it toward a down payment. The biggest challenge that most first-time home buyers face is coming up with enough money for a down payment. If you intend to buy a new home in the near future, putting your tax refund toward the down payment is a smart move.
  • Invest in your current home. Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will pay you back in the long run by increasing the value of your home. This can include small, cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term. If you have more substantial renovations in mind, we can help with a home equity line of credit.

 

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:

  • You're told to send money or provide bank account information before you receive anything in return,
  • You sense a reluctance on the part of the caller to answer questions or provide written information,
  • You're told you already agreed to pay money, but you don't remember that.

 

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:

  • Buy the freshest eggs available.
  • Inspect all eggs in the carton to ensure none are cracked or broken.
  • Make sure eggs are refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling the eggs. Make sure children do the same.
  • Hard boil eggs the safe way. To avoid salmonella poisoning, it's critical that eggs are thoroughly cooked. PAAS, a leading maker of Easter egg coloring kits, shares these steps for safe hard boiling:
  • Place eggs in single layers in a large saucepan. Add water to at least 1" above eggs.
  • Cover. Quickly bring water to boil and turn off heat.
  • Remove the pan from heat to prevent further boiling. Let eggs stand, covered for 15 minutes for large eggs, 12 minutes for medium eggs, and 18 minutes for extra-large eggs.
  • Immediately run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water completely submerged.
  • Use only food-grade dyes available with egg coloring kits.
  • While your eggs might make a colorful centerpiece for your table, don't make the mistake of leaving them out too long and eating them. For your safety, never eat eggs that have been unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
  • Do not boil eggs that are cracked.
  • Don't eat colored shelled eggs older than seven days. Additionally, eggs out of their shell should be eaten immediately.
  • To peel an egg for serving, gently crack it on a hard surface until the entire egg is cracked. Softly roll the egg in your hands and peel from the large end first. While peeling, run the egg under cold water so that the shell will continue to crack.
  • Never microwave shelled eggs. The pressure could cause them to explode.

 

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?

  • If your income and expenses are equal and you are living paycheck to paycheck, cut expenses and develop a savings plan in case of emergencies or unexpected costs. If you are using credit to survive and paying only minimums each month, consider talking to a debt counseling service to help you get back on the track to live within your means.
  • If you have money left over at the end of the month, great work! You're doing a good job of managing your expenses. Now’s the time to consider what you could do with the extra money. You could open a savings account to keep the funds safely set aside for the future. If you already have a savings account, consider setting up automatic transfers to that account or, if you have direct deposit, ask your employer to put a portion of your paycheck in that account automatically. You could also investigate whether your employer offers a 401(k) or other employee matching savings plan. The contribution you make to this type of account is taken out of your paycheck before taxes.
  • If your total was negative and you don’t have enough money, you need to make adjustments immediately. Keep in mind that it's usually easier to cut back on expenses than to increase your income. Analyze your budget to see where you can cut. Typically making cuts to your shopping and eating out categories are the easiest adjustments. You can also call your utility, phone, cable, and cell phone providers. There may be ways to cut those bills that just take a phone call. Or, if need be, you could consider increasing your income by getting a second part-time job or by working overtime.

 

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:

  • Give your kids chores. You can assign age-appropriate household responsibilities at every stage of your child's growth. You might for example, ask a toddler or younger child to pick up and put away their toys. A teenager can help with some of the household responsibilities, such as house cleaning or lawn mowing.
  • Give your children an allowance. Being independent requires your children to understand the importance of managing money. One of the easiest ways to foster financial education is to give your children an allowance for performing chores.
  • Open a bank account for your child. Another great way to teach children about money is to open a bank account in your child's name. Encourage your child to put a portion of their allowance in savings or to save their birthday and other gift money.
  • Let them do things themselves. Kids learn by doing. And while it may be easier for you to dress a young child in the morning for school, you'll be fostering independence and building your child's self-esteem by allowing them to do it independently. If you have a teenager, consider having them set their own alarm and waking up on their own.
  • Be a good role model. You may not realize it, but children learn the most not from listening to their parents, but from emulating them. If your children see you working hard with your job and managing money wisely, they may do the same.
  • Praise your child. One of the best ways to encourage responsible behavior is to reinforce it. If your children do a great job on their tasks, be sure to praise them. If you pay them an allowance, consider giving them a bonus or raise for going above and beyond.
  • Be realistic. Start out small with your child's tasks, particularly when they are younger. As they grow older and successfully complete tasks, assign them new tasks.

 

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:

Credit Do's:

  • DO order a copy of your credit report annually. The three major credit bureaus are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report at your request each year. To get a free copy of your credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. You can also obtain your credit score from any of these credit bureaus for a reasonable fee.
  • DO know the power of credit. Banks look at your credit history as an indication of your future financial behavior. By using credit wisely, you can build a good credit history making it easier to get loans with low interest rates, rent an apartment, purchase a car or home, and may even help you get a job.
  • DO read the fine print on the credit application. The application is a contract, so read it carefully before signing. Credit card companies are very competitive so interest rates, credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms and conditions may vary.
  • DO pay at least the minimum due and contact your creditor if you have trouble making payments. This will help you to avoid late fees and a rising APR. To pay off your balance more quickly, pay more than the minimum due. If you are unable to make the minimum monthly payments, let your creditor know so they can work with you to create a more manageable payment plan.
  • DO be wary of anyone who claims they can "fix" your credit report. No one can legally remove negative information from your credit history if it is accurate. The only thing that can fix a credit report is time and a positive payment history.

 

Credit Don'ts:

  • DON'T pay your bills late. Late payments can affect your credit rating and increase your balance. If you are unable to pay the minimum monthly payment, let your creditor know and it may be able to lower your payments.
  • DON'T spend more than you can afford. Credit is a loan and has to be repaid. It is your responsibility to manage your debts and to keep your commitment with lenders. Avoid reaching your credit limit or "maxing out" your cards.
  • DON'T ignore the warning signs of credit trouble. If you pay only the minimum balance, pay late, use cash-advances to fund daily living expenses or transfer a lot of balances you might be in the credit “danger zone.” Talk to a non-profit financial counseling organization like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (nfcc.org) to regain control of your finances.
  • DON'T share your credit card number. Never give out credit card or personal information if you have not initiated the transaction. Be aware of identity theft and phishing scams that ask for credit card numbers. If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, call your bank and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338) or ftc.gov/idtheft.

 

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:

  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
    • Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov–and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc.  Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
  • Be careful in the cloud. While using the cloud makes it easier to store and share large amounts of files, understand that it also opens other avenues for attack.
  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects.

 

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.

  1. Start saving. Even if you can only put away a small amount, open a savings account and consider having your employer automatically put some into a savings account each time you are paid. As your balance grows, consider moving your funds into a CD or IRA. Just remember, experts recommend keeping about six months or expenses in an account you can access, in case you have an unexpected emergency come up.
  2. Work to pay off high-interest debt. If you have high-interest debt on credit cards or other loans, you’ll be better off in the long-term by paying those off than investing your extra cash.
  3. Track your spending. If you don't know where your money goes each month, start keeping track. There are plenty of tools available to help you set a monthly budget and stick to it.
  4. Review your current investments and make sure that you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. You can reduce the risks associated with investing if you diversify your investment holdings.
  5. Do your homework. Asking questions about financial opportunities and checking out the answers with unbiased sources can help you make informed choices and avoid fraud. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.

 

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.

     
     

 

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