Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Giving: Becoming a Savvy Charitable Giver

For many of us, the holiday season is a time to give to those who have less.  Whether local food drives or kids across the ocean, donating to a meaningful cause is fulfilling. But, you want to make sure your gift reaches the anticipated home. Follow these guidelines to become a savvy charitable giver this holiday season:

Find an Established Organization

Sadly, there are fraudulent charities out to make a profit off your generosity. Know who you’re giving to by asking for written information. Name, address, and telephone number are a good place to start. A legitimate charity will tell you their mission, donation use and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. These charities will have a proven track record.


Designate Your Giving

Many charities let you to choose exactly where your gift goes. For example, which orphanage, school supplies or to a specific geographic area needing relief.  By designating the gift, you control just where your donation goes and helps.


Proactive = Smart

Wise givers don't give impulsively or to the first organization that comes their way.  They take time to recognize the causes most meaningful to them.  Ask the organization about their mission and what type of aid and programs they offer.  Your charity should have targeted outcomes for their giving.


Tax Benefits 

A donor's primary motivation should come from the joy of giving. But, everyone knows there are also great tax benefits for those who give. Many donations entitle you to a charitable contribution tax deduction.  A contribution to a qualified charity is deductible only in the year in which it is paid. Not all charities qualify for the charitable contribution deduction.  Always ask for a receipt and save it for tax time.


Can You Give Your Time?

Four out of five charities report using volunteers.  If fact, they are the foundation of many charitable organizations. If you are tight on money, consider giving your time.  If you volunteer, some of the tasks you may do include stuffing envelopes, feeding animals, tutoring, building homes, serving as a museum docent, organizing, counseling those in crisis, selling tickets or answering phone calls.

Visit these other sites to find out more on charitable giving:

Friday, November 25, 2016

10 Budget-Friendly Christmas Decor Ideas

Tis the season! Thanksgiving is over and if you haven't already, it's time to break out the Christmas decor. If you're looking for some great ways to decorate your home and tree on a budget, we rounded up 10 ideas from around the web for you.

1. Tack and String Ornaments (Source)

2. Mason Jar Lid (Source)

3.  Glitter Lights (Source)

4. Paper  (Source)


5.  Baby-food Jar Snowman (Source)

6. Glass filled with water and a couple drops of food coloring with floating candle (Source) 

7. Pine-cones (Source)

8. Holiday Card Garland (Source)

9. Gift Wrap Center Piece (Source)

10.  Organic Art (Source)

Friday, October 28, 2016

8 Tips to Protect Your Identity

Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. In 2015, there were 13.1 million victims of identity fraud in the U.S., according to Javelin Strategy and Research.

1. Don’t share your secrets.
Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.

2. Shred sensitive papers.
Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

3. Keep an eye out for missing mail.
Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.

4. Use online banking to protect yourself.
Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.


5. Monitor your credit report.
Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at

6. Protect your computer.
Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.

7. Protect your mobile device.
Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.

8. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cyber Security Week 3: Your Phone

With your mobile device, you have access to your email, bank, social media, etc. And it's super convenient right?! Unfortunately, if you're not smart it could provide the same convenient access to criminals. So, how can you be smart about it? Well, here are a few tips.

1.      Use a pass-code to lock your smartphone and other devices. If your device gets lost or stolen, it will be harder for anyone to take your info.

2.      Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.

3.      Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software just like you do for your computer. Install mobile security software.

4.      Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”

5.      Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps. Often they hold security updates as well.

6.      Avoid storing personal information like passwords or a social security number on your mobile device.

7.      Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device. 

8.      Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you’re punching in sensitive information.

9.      Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it. There is specialized software you can use or ask about the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software even allows you to wipe your device remotely if it missing or stolen.

10.  Mobile phishing happens. Avoid opening links or attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.

11.  Don't Always Use Public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network.

12. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cyber Security Week 2: Randsomeware

Have you ever heard of Ransomware? It's a form of malware.  Cyber criminals use it to freeze your computer or phone, steal your info and demand a “ransom”.  They'll demand anywhere from a couple of hundreds to thousands of dollars before releasing your devise.  And often, even if you pay (which we don't recommend), you don't get access back.
Ransomware can affect your personal computer, phone, a business network, or a whole server.

Tips for consumers:
  • Don’t click. Sometimes, just visiting a suspicious website can lead to a malware download. Be cautious when opening e-mails or attachments you don’t recognize. Even if the message comes from someone you know, their account could be compromised as well.
  • Always back up your files. If you have offline copies of your personal information, ransomware scams won't affect you as bad. If targeted, it will be easier to ignore threats posed by cyber criminals.
  • 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.
  • Block popups. Turn on popup blockers to avert unwanted ads, popups or browser malware from appearing on your screen.

Tips for businesses:
  • Educate your employees.  If your employees understand how malware works, they can stop it from infiltrating the organization’s system.  Educate them about the warning signs, safe practices, and appropriate responses. A strong security program paired with employee education will help prevent these threats.
  • Manage the  accounts. Restrict users’ ability to install and run software applications on network devices. this will limit your networks exposure to malware.
  • Use a data backup and recovery plan for all critical information. Backups are essential for lessening the impact of potential malware threats. Store the data in a separate device or offline so you can access it in the event of a ransomware attack.
  • Make sure all business devices are up to date. Ensure antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans so that your operating systems operate efficiently.
  • Contact your local FBI field office immediately to report a ransomware event and request help. Visit to locate the office nearest you.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cyber Security Week 1: Protecting Yourself Online

We all know the internet has many advantages. But,  it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. According to Symantec, 12 adults become a victim of cyber-crime every second. 

Users aren't always helpless though. Here are 7 ways you can step up your game against cyber criminals:

1.      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.

2.      Use strong passwords. What does that mean? It should be at least 8 characters long with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. For example, P@$sw0Rd7 instead of just password. Something more unique to yourself would be even better.

3.      Don't Fall for phishing scams.  This type of scam uses fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into sharing account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
If you get an email and aren't sure about it,  forward it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at You should also forward it to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.

4.      Protect your personal information. Hackers can use what you post on social media 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.

5.      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.

6.      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.

7.      Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans

Did you graduate this spring? If so, chances are you're loaded with student loan debt. In fact,  2016 graduates average $37,172 in student loan debt. Yikes! So what can you do?

Stay in touch with your lender

This is especially important if you decide to move (which many grads do). Your lender needs to know how to reach you. It might be as simple as a website form or a phone call.

 What if you have difficulty making payments? Whether because of unemployment, medical condition or injury, etc. By keeping in touch with your lender, you should be able to adjust your payments or schedule when needed.

Consolidation: pros and cons
How much goes here? When is this one due? Who does this check go to? Where's that address? Yeah. It's overwhelming sometimes. A consolidation loan combines several loans into one. Then, all you have is a single monthly payment and one fixed interest rate. 

The downside is it will usually extend your repayment period. This means you will pay less each month, but you'll be paying longer to get it paid off. The pros? You may get a better interest rate and it is more convenient and easier to budget. 

One important consolidation tip: Never consolidate federal loans into a private student loan. You'll lose all the repayment options and borrower benefits that come with federal loans (like unemployment deferments and loan forgiveness programs).

Take advantage of the tax breaks!

Have you ever filed taxes before? Maybe not. Be proactive and research what deductions you qualify for. The Student Loan Interest Deduction allows taxpayers to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest paid on student loans. The best part is, even if you do not itemize your taxes, you're still allowed to claim this deduction. 

Just watch for your 1040 form(s) to arrive - each lender will send you one - and follow the instruction on them. Even if you use a product like Turbo Tax, you'll still need the information on the form. 

Don't be afraid to ask for help. The financial aid counselor at your alma mater and/or  your lender are great resources for advice.  Another good resource is It has tools like repayment estimators and information on repayment plans for federal student loans.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sending Your Kid to College (the financially smart way)

The years have flow by. Now, your son or daughter is preparing to step into adulthood. How can you help them make smart choices about college? While each situation is different, here are a few ideas to think about.

Different Colleges have Different Costs

Many times it's easy for students to compare colleges only thinking about the programs, dorms, location, or just where their friends are going. They know whatever school they go to will be expensive and a few thousand difference in tuition won't really matter. Obviously, take the quality of education into consider, but all the little costs can add up and determine how successful life after graduation will be. 

When you're comparing college costs, there are several things to look at:
  • Tuition costs (don't just look at one year or semester, but the total cost)
  • Financial aid availability
  • Living expenses (include cost of food, travel, housing, parking if needed, etc)
  • School related expenses (books, computer software, tutoring, equipment, trips, etc.)
All of the above expenses vary greatly across schools. These seemingly small expenses can add up quickly over 4 years. Here is a great resource for comparing the costs of college options:

Look into Alternative Options

The trend right now is to get into a 4-year school right after high school. But, it's important to look into other options as well. If your student is undecided what to major in, it can make sense to attend a technical college for a few years first to earn generals, rather than putting a few years into a major only to change it. Most general courses will transfer between schools, but it's always important to double check. Or, spend a few years in the work force before starting college. Why pay for classes unless you're sure you will use them?

Or, maybe your student could save a few bucks by taking some or all of their courses online. It often has a lower price than the same course taken in a classroom. 

Look into your housing options...does your student need to stay in the dorms or is there a cheaper option? 

Does your student need a car or would public transportation and a bike be the better option?

Each situation will be different, so make sure you are looking at the big picture and not overlooking the less popular options.

Is a Credit Card a Good Idea

Discuss the pros and  cons of a credit card. They can be an effective way to build credit score and are handy in a pinch. But, if used irresponsibly or if payments are missed it may just land them in even more debt.

Do They Need a New Bank

If your student is moving out of town to attend college, consider the pros and cons of opening an account at a bank closer to the school. You may believe it would be more convenient for your student to have their bank close by. On the other hand, if they remain at your local bank it will be easier for you to check up on them and give them a helping hand when needed. If your student has online and mobile banking options, they may not need to bother opening a new account at all. 

Can They Save on Supplies

Books, computers, specialized equipment, dorm room necessities, the list goes on and on. Depending on the class, your student might be better off renting their textbooks or at least buying them used. Also, check with both the schools bookstore AND online or other bookstores. You never know which might have the better deal. 

Check if the college has a laptop rental or how late the school library is open. If your student could get his/her homework done on the school's equipment, maybe a laptop isn't even necessary. 

Start with the minimum for dorm room furniture and supplies. What does your student actually NEED? Probably a lot less than the media would have you believe. Start with the bare necessities and buy more on an as needed basis.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Who is the Fed and Why Should You Care?

Do you listen to news about the economy? Ever heard of "The Fed"? Probably. So, what is the Fed is and how can it impact you? Learn how the central bank of the United States works and how it affects your finances.  You'll be better prepared for making long-term plans and financial decisions.
Understanding the Fed gives you an idea of what the economy is currently like, what's going to happen, and how it affects you. (Your business, your job, your loans, and/or your investments.)

Here are a few basic facts about the Fed:

It is not a government agency.

Private banks own the Fed. It operates independently of the U.S. government. But, the President does appoint its Board of Governors.
The Fed has 3 mandates: maximize employment, stabilize prices and moderate long-term interest rates.

It sets important interest rates.

The main way the Fed impacts the economy is by setting the Federal Funds Interest Rate. Every other interest rate uses that as a basis.
In general, when the Fed lowers interest rates, the goal is to stimulate the economy.
They usually raise rates when they want to slow down the economy.
The Fed manages these rates through the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).  FOMC meets 8 times each year.
After each meeting, the FOMC issues a press release about the general U.S. economy and whether the Fed will raise interest rates.

How does the Fed Funds rate impact consumers?

It's true consumers do not  borrow money directly from the Fed. But, the financial institutions that provide their car loans and mortgages do.
By raising rates, the Fed raises the cost of what your bank has to pay  to get money.  In turn, raising and lowering it affects the rates you, the consumer, can get from your bank.
So, what do you do if you're in the market to buy a house and you hear that the Fed may be raising interest rates soon? Act fast to secure a lower interest rate for your mortgage.

Are higher rates always bad for consumers?
No, it's not all bad. Yes, loans will become more expensive. But, you'll also earn more interest on your savings account and any interest-bearing investments!
Keep these basic concepts in mind to create better a financial plan for yourself. If you want to learn more about the Fed, stop in and chat with us.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tips to Save Money at Home this Summer

When the temperature goes up, so do energy bills, water bills and a host of other home-related costs.

Here are a few tips on how to stretch your household budget this summer and still stay cool.

Use ceiling fans.

Delay turning on the A/C, instead get the air moving with the ceiling fan.  If its a cool summer evening you can also leave your windows open.

Make sure you have the blades spinning in the right direction though! In the summer, your ceiling fan should spin counterclockwise as you look up at the fan blades. You will feel a cool downward airflow when you stand directly under the fan. In the winter, your ceiling fan should spin in a clockwise direction. Check your owner's manual for how to switch the direction on your fans.

Invest in a programmable thermostat.

Want an easy, low cost way to cut your energy bills? Program your thermostat.

How does a programmable thermostat help? It prevents large temperature swings throughout your home. This could save you up to 10 percent on your cooling bills.

A homeowner can save as much as $150 - or even more - on air conditioning bills by setting a thermostat.

Upgrade your old air conditioner.

 Does your old air conditioner have an EER energy efficiency of 5? You can cut costs in half by replacing it with a new one with an EER of 10.

So do a simple calculation: If your average annual bill is $260, your bill would become $130.
Depending on the size of the unit and room, your annual savings will pay for the unit in just a few years.

Have you thought about filters?

Air conditioners are more efficient, less costly, and  last longer when you replace or clean their filters on a regular basis. Read your owners' manual to find out how often you should replace or clean filters.

Unplug electronics when they're not in use.

Even when you turn electronics off, they can suck power out of outlets. (For example, television sets, DVD players, computers and phone chargers.)  Either unplug them when you're done using them or use a Smart Strip (which cuts power when it's not needed).

One last tip: using overhead fans, especially at night, is more cost effective than turning down the thermostat.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Savings Account Options: What's the best way to save money?

The WBA shared some pointers on choosing the right savings account for your needs.

Creating a "rainy day fund" or building up savings is a top financial goal for many consumers, usually falling just below paying off debts in consumer polls. If increasing your short-term savings is on your financial to-do list, there are a few different options for you to consider. After all, not all savings accounts are the same.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

Traditional Savings Accounts
Traditional bank savings accounts are what most consumers are familiar with. These are deposit accounts that can be tied to your checking account for easy transfer of funds, and typically have the most freedom to allow for withdrawals. These accounts have terms that can vary widely from bank to bank, and many institutions offer several different savings account options to fit different consumer needs. For example, the same bank my offer a savings account that has a minimum balance requirement and a different savings account that does not have a balance requirement but has a set limit of five withdrawals per month. Savings accounts also vary by monthly service fees, interest rates, method used to calculate interest and minimum opening deposit.

Money Market Deposit Accounts

Money market accounts are similar to traditional savings accounts, but most require you to maintain a higher balance to avoid a monthly fee. Where savings accounts usually have a fixed interest rate, money market accounts have rates that vary regularly based on money markets (which is where they get their name). This type of savings account can have tiered interest rates, providing more favorable rates based on higher balances. Some money market accounts also allow you to write checks against your funds, but on a more limited basis than a checking account.

No, not those things we used to listen to music on before iPods. A Certificate of Deposit account is a type of savings account that bears a maturity date, which means once you open it you can't withdraw money from it without penalties until the account matures. The term of a CD generally ranges from a few months to five years, with the higher (better) interest rates being on the longer terms. These accounts also pay at a higher interest rate than other types of deposit accounts, but instead of paying interest to the account periodically over the life of the investment, it pays all of the interest at once when the account matures. An additional benefit: CDs are insured by the FDIC, so even if the bank you keep yours at closes, you won't lose a single cent.

No matter which savings account option you choose, be sure to consult with your local banker first. They'll be able to go over additional account options that may be specific to your bank and might be a better fit for your financial goals.

Peoples State Bank, Memeber FDIC

Friday, June 24, 2016

Online Security Tips

There's no question that the Internet makes life easier in many ways. Shopping, communicating and storing information are just a few of the ways we all use the web. But, it also comes with risks.

To keep your financial information safe online, follow these tips:

Use a Secure Connection and Strong Passwords

If you're an online shopper, know the risks. Online purchases send your credit card or bank account information over the Internet. Hackers can tap into unsecured Wi-Fi connections at hotspots to capture that information. Potential hotspots are coffee shops, airports, and other public facilities.  If you're using a wireless connection to shop, be sure that it requires a password or WEP key.

Websites with extra security protections have https:// instead of http:// on their site.

Using strong passwords on all your online accounts is also an essential protection. Do not use your name, birthday or pet's name. This information is easy to find, especially if you post it on social media. Check SkyHigh's 20 Most Common Passwords. If your passwords made the list, change them immediately.

Monitor Your Credit Report

What aspects of life can your credit score affect? Interest rates on large purchases, obtaining loans, and even renting an apartment.

Check your credit report three times per year. Once with each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can do so for free by visiting

Watch for unauthorized accounts, loans or purchases in your name.  They will damage your credit and signal that you may be a victim of identity theft.

If you find inaccuracies in your report, dispute those errors. Contact the credit bureau online, by mail or over the phone. Their contact information will be on the report itself.

Take Action

If you hear about a data breach that might affect your account, be proactive! Change any related passwords. Especially if you use the same password on multiple accounts. You should avoid using the same password more than once anyway.

Suspicious charges on your credit card or transfers from your banking account are a red flag. If you see this, contact your bank right away and notify them of the issue. They may put a freeze on the account. This prevents further fraud and keeps the criminals from completely emptying your account. 

Enroll in online banking and/or mobile banking. Then, you can always be on the watch for fraudulent activity on your account. There are also apps like Mobimoney, that allow you to control how and where your debit card is used. Setting up these protections will keep you and your information in a safer place.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, we're supporting the American Bankers Association’s Foundation work to combat financial abuse of older Americans. This article was written by the American Bankers Association.
 A recent study estimated older adults lose $2.9 billion each year to fraud.
“Americans 50 years and older control more than 70 percent of our nation’s wealth, making them prime targets for exploitation,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “One of the first steps toward prevention is to have conversations with the important people in your life, including your banker, about how you can work together to safeguard your money and personal information.”  
To help older Americans and their caregivers protect themselves or their loved ones from financial abuse, the ABA Foundation is offering the following tips:
  • Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
  • Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters. Select someone who has your best interest at heart.
  • Never give personal information, including your Social Security Number, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
  • Stay alert to common fraud schemes. Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
  • Never rush into a financial decision.  Ask for details in writing and consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
  • Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances and make sure to lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
  • Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
  • You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you believe you are a victim of elder financial abuse, contact your local Adult Protective Services, tell someone at your bank or call your local police for help.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.

ABA Foundation is helping bankers raise consumer awareness of these issues through its new Safe Banking for Seniors initiative. Over 650 banks are now holding financial education seminars for seniors and their financial caregivers on a range of topics, from scams and identity theft to how to choose a financial caregiver for a senior. To see if a bank is presenting a seminar in your community, visit and click on the Participating Banks List.
The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $16 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $12 trillion in deposits and extend more than $8 trillion in loans.
Through its leadership, partnerships, and national programs, ABA’s Community Engagement Foundation (dba ABA Foundation), a 501(c)3, helps bankers provide financial education to individuals at every age, elevate issues around affordable housing and community development, and achieve corporate social responsibility objectives to improve the well-being of their customers and their communities.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, June 10, 2016

Answers to Your Retirement Questions

Approaching retirement should be an exciting time in your life!  You have traveling, time for hobbies, and enjoying your golden years to look forward to. 

But, for many, retirement is a source of stress and anxiety instead. Have you saved enough? Do you need to keep working part-time? How will you pay for unexpected medical bills?

Creating a retirement plan early and reviewing it often is key to alleviating some of this stress. Here are a few questions to consider when checking up on your retirement plan:

How much do I need to save?

The average retirement age is 67. And, most investment advisors recommend assuming a lifespan of 92 years for men, 94 for women. Using these guidelines, you need about 8x your annual salary to retire without any major lifestyle changes. 

Experts recommend saving 10% of your annual income for retirement during the first decade of your career. After that, increase your contributions to 15% of your annual income.

How much am I allowed to save?

Most retirement accounts have a limit on how much you can contribution each year. Different retirement savings accounts have different rules. 

The current maximum annual contribution to a 401(k) plan is $18,000. The maximum contribution to an IRA is $5,500 per year if you're under age 50. There are also catch-up provisions that allow people age 50 and over to save more in both IRAs and workplace savings plans.

Check into how much you're currently saving and if you could be setting aside more.

How much risk am I taking on?

If you don't review your retirement plan, you risk losing a big chunk of it.

Typically, the younger you are, the riskier the investments in your retirement portfolio. This is because the potential for higher returns outweighs the risk of losing money. When you're young, you have enough time to make up any losses before retiring.

As you get closer to exiting the workforce, that balance shifts. Talk with your plan administrator to reassess your risk tolerance at least every 10 years. Ensure that you're not taking on more than is advisable for your situation.

Where should I save?

There is a wide variety of ways to save for retirement. A few of the most popular are IRAs and 401(k)s.

With a 401(k), your employer directs the account. Contributions are deducted from your paychecks.

An IRA account is an individual account that provides tax advantages. A regular savings account does not offer these advantages. 

There are two types of both IRAs and 401(k) plans, Roth and Traditional. The basic difference is when you have to pay the taxes on the account. 

With a traditional retirement account, you pay the taxes when you withdraw the funds.

With a Roth account, you pay the taxes upfront, when you put the money into the account. This makes them especially valuable to younger savers.

If your questions about retirement weren't answered, ask your employer's Human Resources personnel or give us a call at (608) 326-3500.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, June 3, 2016

Managing Finances When You Travel

Planning a vacation can be chaotic. Do you use a check list to make sure everything ready when it's time to leave? Pack, unplug appliances, get a passport, let school know the kids will be gone, etc. 

Adding a few financial management items to your list can prevent a lot of frustration down the road too! Here are a few things check off your to-do list:

Tell your bank you'll be traveling.

And, tell them where you're going. To protect customers against fraud, most banks monitor your normal spending habits. This  includes the geographic location of your purchases. If out-of-area purchases show up, the bank may flag/block those transactions as  fraudulent.

Also keep the 800 numbers for your credit cards on hand in case you need to report a lost or stolen card.

Double-check your accounts.

Have enough funds set aside for some emergency money during your vacation.

Set up automatic or early payments for any bills that will be due while you're away. You don't want to miss any payment dates just because you're gone!

Make sure you have a way to check in while you're away.

Services like online, telephone and mobile banking help you watch your spending/account balances even while you're on vacation.

You'll likely be making withdrawals from unfamiliar ATMs and making purchases at new places. So, it's a good idea to carefully watch your accounts while on vacation.

Carry a variety of payment options.

Take along several credit cards, a check book and a debit card to make sure that if one payment method fails, you'll still have access to your funds.

Carry a small amount of cash for small purchases and souvenirs. Use multiple wallets so that if one is stolen or lost you can still access your accounts.

If you have to make currency exchanges, talk to your bank about the most cost-effective method for your situation.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, May 27, 2016

Joint vs. Separate: The Checking Account Debate

Ahhh the debate over joint vs. separate bank accounts. It's been a hot topic among married, and engaged, couples. 

Some couples swear by separate bank accounts while others think joint accounts are the only way to go.

We don't believe either method is right or wrong. But, it is important that couples talk it out and decide together what works for their situation. 

Finances are often complicated by a variety of factors. (Previous marriages, child support, credit card debt and student loans.) Resentment over money can fester and ruin a relationship, so this is a conversation that should occur sooner rather than later.

Consider a few of the positive aspects of a joint checking account:
  • Less maintenance.
    • There is only one monthly statement to balance.
    • Checks, ATM and debit withdrawals all come out of the same account.
  • Promotes the notion that marriage is a team effort.
There are potential negatives to mingling money matters this way:
  • One person spends more than the other on “wants” rather than “needs.”
  • One person is bad at tracking checks, ATM or debit withdrawals.
  • There may be a feeling of a lack of autonomy and financial independence.

Other couples have a joint checking account but also maintain separate checking accounts. 

This joint account pays household bills so all income goes into this account first. 

Communicating with each other to  create a budget and ensure the correct amount of money goes into this account is critical. Each person then decides how to use the money in their separate accounts. Maybe they'll pay down previous debt, maybe they'll go on a shopping spree.

The positives to this approach include:
  • Good communication on financial matters
  • Each person retains his or her own autonomy and financial independence.
  • Money is less likely to be used as power in the relationship.
There are some negatives to separate checking accounts:
  • Requires agreement and discipline on what the purpose is for each account and how much money goes into the separate accounts.
  • There are now three bank accounts to balance each month vs. one.

Open & frequent communication is the key to determining which checking account option is right for you.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC