November 14, 2018, 10:13 AM
The end of the year is quickly approaching and it’s time to start thinking about how to end the year on a financial high note. Here’s a checklist to get you started.
1. Max out your IRA and/or Roth IRA contributions. Consider increasing your contributions. Those 50 and older can take advantage of catch-up contributions in some cases.
2. Establish/increase your emergency fund. Consider gifting yourself and/or your family with three to six months’ worth of expenses in the bank. Be sure to make it liquid and easily accessible.
3. Check your Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account. Do you need to save more in your HSA? Will you have spent everything in your FSA by the end of the plan year?
4. Confirm/update your beneficiary designations. The designations you make in individual documents (insurance policies, etc.) supersede your will. Make sure you know where your assets will be going.
5. Review life insurance policies and discuss with those who care about you. It’s great to have a policy, but if no one knows where it is or what your wishes are it’s hard to carry it out.
6. Review your current spending and create a budget for the new year.
7. Consider investing in a 529 Plan for your kids. Enrolling early in a 529 Plan can pay dividends in years to come—literally!
8. Review your investments and offset any losses. Consider if profits gained can be offset by some losses to avoid some taxes.
9. Schedule a meeting with your tax advisor.
10. Schedule a meeting with your City Bank financial advisor. Our financial advisors can go with you when you meet with your tax advisor if you need them. Call us today at (806) 687- 2955!
October 31, 2018, 12:31 PM
It's difficult to discuss handling money responsibly without first talking about the concept of giving. Teaching children about giving can be rewarding for both parents and their children.
Even when children are still small, it's never too soon to begin charitable traditions which can make a lasting impression and instill the core values of gratitude and generosity. Here are several ways to involve children of all ages in charitable giving.
Begin the Conversation Early
It's never too early to begin speaking to your children about the importance of giving to those less fortunate. You can start the conversation at any age, but expect it to have more meaning when a child reaches age three and over. This is when children being to develop a strong sense of empathy, which is the basis for charity. Explain that not all children have as much as they do, which is why it's a good idea to help.
Adopt a Family in Need
Find a local organization or program that will connect your family with another one in need. You and your children can shop together for back to school and holiday items. Ask your child for input on what the appropriate things to buy might be and let them help in packaging and making deliveries.
If your children receive an allowance, encourage them to set aside a portion of that money for savings and another for charitable giving. Decide together the appropriate amounts for each category.
Let your children have input on where their charitable dollars will go. If they don't already have someplace in mind, help them do some online research to locate a cause that is meaningful to them. Websites such as GuideStar and BBB Wise Giving Alliance can help make this research project fun.
Donate Items or Your Time
Charitable giving doesn't necessarily need to be in the form of cash to be meaningful. If you are donating your time to a cause, this is setting a stellar example for your children. It is also something that they may be able to participate in depending on their ages and the work involved.
Your children can help you volunteer at a local soup kitchen or sort items that will go into a donation box. Your family can come together on a regular schedule to help a housebound neighbor with yard work or to bake cookies for a local senior center.
When you start charitable habits early, children learn the importance of reaching out to others and exercising empathy. This is something that they will carry on into adulthood and pass along to their own families and communities.
City Bank Community Rewards
City Bank regularly gives back to its community through its Community Rewards program. This year alone, we have made $60,000 available to qualifying nonprofit agencies in our service area. Contact us to find out how you and your family can participate in securing "rewards" that will be returned to people in need in our local communities.
October 24, 2018, 12:57 PM
Homeownership is a dream and goal of many Americans, and the right mortgage lender can put this in reach. But buying a home isn't as simple as placing an online order or even buying a car. There is a lot involved in this process.
This could be one of the most significant transactions that you will ever make, and it can get complicated. The good news is that this shouldn't scare you away because millions have done this before you and you have people in your corner that want to see you succeed.
One of those is your mortgage lender, and here are 10 questions you should ask to both ease your mind and make sure you have all of your financial ducks in a row for your upcoming home purchase.
1. How much money can I borrow?
How much you will be able to borrow isn't going to be the same as your co-worker or best friend. Your creditworthiness determines this figure. What does this mean? A lender will look at your income compared to the amount of debt that you hold. They will also consider other factors such as your employment status and credit history.
Speak to your mortgage lender about getting prequalified for a mortgage before you begin shopping for a home. This can simplify your experience. Also, ask about special mortgage programs for first-time homebuyers and military veterans.
2. What is my down payment requirement?
If you want to get the best interest rate on your mortgage loan, you should plan on committing at least 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment. Lower down payments are certainly possible, but a loan like this might require that you also have private mortgage insurance (PMI).
The amount of down payment that you choose is going to impact such things as your APR, monthly payments, and loan term. Ask the mortgage lender what they require and find out if you qualify for any cost-saving assistance programs.
3. What is the interest rate on your loans?
Of course, you want to ask your lender about the interest rates on their mortgage loans. Find out about direct interest rates and have the lender give you the corresponding annual percentage rate (APR) for each loan. The APR will incorporate all loan-related charges, such as fees, so that you can get the most accurate picture of what you will pay to borrow money.
4. How are fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgages different?
You may be surprised to learn that there are many different types of mortgage loans. This is a benefit since you and your mortgage lender can customize a loan to suit your needs and financial situation. Ask your lender to explain their options.
A fixed-rate loan is going to charge you the same interest rate for the life of the loan, generally 15 or 30 years. This means that your monthly payment is never going to change. An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) has an interest rate that can go up or down based on market conditions and the terms of the loan. For example, a 30-year ARM might have a fixed rate for the first 5 years and then adjust annually.
5. How many points does the rate include?
Ask your lender if their loans have points and, if so, how many. Points are fees charged by lenders in exchange for a lower interest rate (1 point equals 1% of your total mortgage). Discuss the benefits of using or not using points in your mortgage with your lender.
6. When can I lock in my interest rate?
Interest rates can change, so it would be beneficial to lock in your interest rate if there is a possibility of rates going up. Ask your lender when you can lock in your mortgage interest rate and how long that rate lock is valid. Generally, lower interest rates are awarded to shorter rate locks.
7. What are the estimated closing costs on my loan?
There are many costs associated with buying a home, and closing costs can be steep. These include appraisal fees, attorney fees, and loan origination fees. Ask your lender to help you estimate these based on your home purchase price and the type of mortgage that you'd like to use.
8. Are there any other fees or costs that I need to know about?
It helps to be as prepared as possible when you buy a home and take out a mortgage. Have your lender give you an estimate of all the fees you will be expected to pay. They generally provide this on a Closing Disclosure form.
9. Can you tell me when my closing will take place?
Many of the factors that will determine your closing date are beyond your control. The mortgage, however, is a big part of the closing, so your lender can at least give you an idea of when their part of the equation will be finalized.
10. Are there any factors that could delay my closing?
There are also many things that can delay and derail a closing. Buying a home is a complicated process that involves many moving parts. The best way to avoid unwanted delays is to stay in close communication with everyone involved and provide each party with the documentation they require to keep the process moving towards closing.
City Bank Mortgage
Whether you are ready to buy a home or just have a few questions, City Bank is ready to speak with you about your options and its mortgage programs. We offer best-in-class experienced paired with competitive rates on a wide range of mortgage loans. Contact us now to start an application or discuss your next steps.
October 17, 2018, 11:20 AM
Getting your first credit card can be exciting, but it also involves some responsibility. For many young adults, being approved for their first credit card is the best thing to happen since getting a drivers license or turning 18.
Having a credit card has benefits that include convenience and a step toward financial independence. This is a tool that can help you build credit, allowing you to borrow money at more favorable terms in the future.
But credit cards can also be dangerous when not used responsibly. Here are some essential steps to make the right moves with your first credit card.
1. Use Your Credit Wisely.
You will receive a credit limit with your card, and it's a good idea to avoid burning through your available credit. A common rule of thumb is to not spend more than 30 percent of your available credit. This means that you will need to think carefully before pulling out your credit card.
2. Pay Your Bill on Time.
Missing payment due dates can have several unfortunate consequences. Not only will you be hit with interest rate charges but also a late fee. Additionally, paying your bill late could impact your credit score.
3. Pay Your Entire Balance.
When you pay your credit card bill each month, it's best to pay the entire balance whenever possible. This can help you avoid costly interest charges. When you can't pay the entire balance, aim to pay more than the minimum monthly payment. This strategy can also save you a significant amount long term.
4. Keep Tabs on Your Credit.
One of the benefits of having a credit card is to build positive credit. This is something you should continuously monitor to ensure that lenders will get an accurate picture of your history. You can get a free credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) through annualcreditreport.com. Getting an estimation of your credit score will be an extra charge.
5. Monitor Your Account.
When you're using a credit card, it's relatively easy to lose track of how much you are spending. This can be dangerous. To avoid overspending, use your bank or credit card issuer's online access or app to keep close tabs on your monthly purchases. This can also help you make on-time payments online and quickly spot any potential trouble.
6. Protect Yourself from Fraud.
Fraud is an ongoing problem with credit cards, and your constant monitoring can help protect your account from malicious charges. Review your bank's terms to find out what to do if you become a victim of fraud or if your credit card is lost or stolen. Some common tips to keep your information safe include never giving out PINs online or over the phone and keeping your credit card in a secure location.
A credit card may be a big responsibility, but there are also many benefits when it is used wisely. Rather than putting in several applications at once and possibly damaging your credit score, choose a local bank that you know and trust for this important service. Contact City Bank now to learn more about our personal banking services, including several feature-packed, low-APR credit cards.
October 10, 2018, 12:15 PM
A vast majority of Americans now own and use smartphones, and millions are also active on social networking sites. Social media might be a fun way to stay in touch with friends and family, get information about a favorite hobby, or even network for business, but it's not without its dangers.
Just last month, Facebook revealed that there was once again a security breach on its network that compromised the accounts of 50 million users. While the company's CEO promises that the network is handling your personal information responsibly, you can take some steps that will help protect you from scam artists and identity thieves.
Tips for Social Networking Safety
A large part of staying safe on social networks is common sense. While you might want to trust what you see online, some people would like nothing better than to rob you of your livelihood. Here are several tips for social networking safety to keep your identity and cash out of the hands of bad actors.
Always use a strong password. This means mixing upper and lowercase characters with numbers and symbols. Also, make your password as long as possible and don't use the same password for all of your accounts.
Set up security answers. Most social media sites will give this option so that you can recover your account if you forget your password or the account is hacked.
Use a firewall and strong anti-virus software. Use your computer's firewall system and choose a strong anti-virus program that will help you avoid visiting dangerous websites linked from a social network.
Be cautious with links. Speaking of links, use caution when clicking on links and avoid downloading files unless you personally know the sender.
Be careful who you follow/friend. Those people who seek status in having hundreds of friends may also face more issues with fraud. Be more selective in who you follow or add as a friend on social media. This will improve your experience and lessen the chances for a security issue.
Avoid sharing sensitive information. It's a bad idea to share certain sensitive data on social media such as your phone number, home address, or financial information. This sort of information makes it easier for identity thieves to strike.
Search for yourself. Want to know what others see when they look for you online? Do a periodic search for yourself on social networks to make sure that you aren't sharing too much personal information and that there isn't more than one profile online with your name and image.
City Bank Takes Your Security Seriously
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This is the perfect time to take a close look at your social media awareness and make any changes necessary to keep you and your loved ones safe.
When you partner with City Bank, we take a variety of steps to help protect you from becoming a victim of fraud. Our representatives will never ask for your password, PIN, account number, or debit card number through a text or email message.
Contact us now to learn more about our personalized banking services.
October 02, 2018, 11:06 AM
Hurricanes, flash floods, tornados, forest fires, and other disasters are a terrifying reality in today's world. While you certainly can't control when disaster is going to strike, you can reduce the financial impact of some of the damage by taking the right steps immediately after the "issue" passes. Here are several tips to recover from a potentially devastating disaster.
Safety Comes First
The safety of you and your loved ones is a priority. Avoid risking life and limb crawling through rubble or trying to get back into your neighborhood too soon to save a few tangible items or to take stock of the damage. Wait until it is safe to re-enter the area and look for suitable relocation options in the meantime.
Contact Disaster Assistance Agencies
Many organizations offer emergency disaster relief assistance for shelter, food, and other items short-term. Some of these resources include:
Call Your Insurance Agent
Once you are safe, contact your insurance agent to let them know you are a disaster victim and find out about the steps to file a damage claim. While you won't know about the exact damage sustained yet, it's essential to begin this process immediately so that you receive priority.
In large disaster areas, many insurance companies will set up temporary offices nearby. If you do not have coverage, contact your local emergency management office or FEMA to inquire about other options.
Assess the Damage
When given the green light by local officials, it's time to assess your damage. Make an itemized list of the things that you have lost as a direct result of the disaster. Take videos and photos for documentation.
You will also need to list the replacement costs of these items (you may not receive this amount) on your claim. If you spend extra money on food and lodging that could be covered by insurance, keep all of your receipts.
Plan for Rebuilding and Replacement
Speak with your insurance company representative as soon as possible about what will be covered under your policy. You may need to make some decisions about whether to rebuild your home or take the payout and move elsewhere.
Create a Disaster Preparation Plan for the Future
Did you have a disaster preparedness plan before this latest disaster hit? Even if you did, you might see where there is room for improvement. If you didn't, it's time to get to work on creating a thorough plan to help you mitigate future losses.
Depending on the state of your infrastructure, your local bank branches may be damaged or temporarily closed. When you use City Bank, you can enroll in online banking as well as online bill pay to ensure that bills continue to be paid even if you are temporarily offline.
Disasters require patience and teamwork above all else. While you might not suffer minor damage, your neighbors might be wiped out, and vice versa. It's essential to stick together and help each other out when possible.