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Iowa State Bank Blog

7 Items Worth the Splurge

Spending

When you make your savings plan, you often don’t think about the things you should spend extra money on. While scrimping on other items such as groceries or kids clothes could help you in the long run, there are some expenditures that could cost you in the future if you don’t pony up for the better option. At Iowa State Bank we suggest taking a second look at these seven products, and seeing if you need to upgrade the next time you buy:

 

Toilet Paper: You may not think it’s necessary, but let’s be honest; when you’re staying at a hotel that doesn’t have the good stuff, you notice. Household items such as toilet paper or garbage bags are bought to complete a task, and if they don’t complete it well or comfortably then it’s time to reconsider your options. We believe this product is worth the extra couple bucks, but we do recommend saving by buying in bulk!

 

Office Chair: If you’re like many Americans, you may spend a majority of your day sitting down. To avoid chronic back pain, and a slew of other ailments, we recommend investing in a comfortable and reliable office chair. If your employer is willing to pay for all or a portion of the chair, be sure to offer your measurements to be sure their options fit your height and weight specifications.

 

Mattress: Did you know you spend 33 percent of your life sleeping? For such a large portion of your time, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best sleep possible. Avoid those box store less costly options, and test out a few of the higher end options available in your budget. Not only can you sleep better, but you may find yourself spending less on coffee or energy drinks as well.

 

Pillows & Bed Sheets: While the mattress will make the biggest impact on the quality of your sleep, upgrading your thread count and purchasing the proper pillows can make a world of difference as well. Something as simple as changing the firmness of your pillow could help you sleep through the night more soundly.

 

Work Clothes: Sweats, shorts, and other home attire may not require the added expense, but the clothing that you wear to portray yourself at work should come across as professional while also remaining intact over time. We suggest finding one or two brands that fit both your budget and your style and selecting key basic pieces to compile a wardrobe of endless combinations.

 

Garbage Bags: Do you enjoy it when you go to take the trash out in the early morning and just as you reach the bin, the bag breaks across your feet? No, neither do we. We agree that it is more than worth the extra dollar or two for the name brand bags that won’t break. After all, if the bag breaks, that means you’ll need to take a shower too!

 

Data Plan: Every cell phone provider seems to come out with a brand new plan option as soon as a new phone is released. While the choice of phone is completely up to you, we think that the data plan should cover not only what you think you’ll use, but some buffer room too. Instead of paying the expensive overage fees every time to go over your data limit, we recommend purchasing a more comprehensive plan to ensure you have a little extra space when you need it.

 

These seven things will prove their worth in the long run, and many items only require a one-time investment. If you have any other items you think we should add to our list, let us know on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!

 

How to Save $1,000,000 for Retirement

Retirement Savings

Retirement, 401(k), stocks and bonds, the subject matter of saving for the long term isn’t often as appealing as saving for the short term. Perhaps that’s why nearly three-quarters of Americans are underestimating how much they’ll need for retirement. The United States is on the brink, if not already in, a retirement crisis. However, at Iowa State Bank we believe retirement saving can still be easily accomplished, there are just a few steps to get started:

 

  1. The first thing you’ll need to do is determine when and how you want to retire. There are an endless variety of retirement lifestyles, each of which entail a different budget and distribution structures. Some popular options include traveling by RV, retiring in a new location, downsizing your home in the same area, pursuing a new business or passion,  and of course maintaining your current lifestyle without the need for work. By choosing your lifestyle goal we can begin to structure your savings plan around what you hope to achieve.
  2. Once you know what you want, start saving ASAP. As the old adage goes, “Slow and steady wins the race.” This is phrase is the epitome of retirement. If you save less, but start earlier you will consistently save more than if you deposited higher amounts later in life. We recommend utilizing any 401(k) or retirement savings plans your employer offers. If you are self-employed or don’t have access to retirement benefits, an IRA is a great self-funded option to help you save and take advantage of valuable tax incentives.
  3. Create a goal for how much you need to save. Financial Mentor offers a great calculators to help you plan your path to retirement.  They can help you determine your strategy to become a millionaire, or show you how much you may need beyond $1,000,000. Saving more than one million could be more pertinent than you think. Today’s research indicates that millennials may need to save more than their baby boomer or gen x counterparts.
  4. Add any available surplus funds to your retirement savings. Simple adjustments like changing grocery stores, carpooling, and bringing your lunch to work can save more than you think! If you are able to find some additional ways to save, put those funds to work by contributing to your retirement accounts.
  5. Diversify your retirement savings. Instead of putting all your funds in company stock, corporate shares, or your 401(k), we suggest diversifying your savings options to ensure your risk isn’t higher than you need. Speaking with a professional adviser could help you determine what type of risk you’re comfortable with, and how you would like to your contributions to grow over time.

 

By continuing to save each and every month you can beat the odds and have a fulfilling and successful retirement. The most important thing to do is to start. If you’d like to open a dedicated savings account, IRA, or CD, our dedicated team is here to help. Stop by or drop us a line today to get started today.

5 Affordable Summer Vacations

Travel

One of the best things summer brings, aside from the beautiful weather, is time to enjoy with your family. Whether that’s planning a fun weekend adventure, or carving out a week to go exploring, your kids are sure to remember these getaways for decades to come. After years of trial and error, we’ve discovered some ideal destinations where you can stay in budget while enjoying all the perks of your family’s time away.

 

Wisconsin Dells, USA

This midwestern hot spot is filled with many of the nation’s premier water parks. With options at every price range, many resorts include park passes and discounts on other area activities. For those looking to save some extra funds, we recommend finding accommodations with a kitchenette. This added feature allows your family to cook meals instead of having to eat out at pricier restaurants, plus the kids will appreciate the extra time in the pool!

 

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

One of the most difficult parts of organizing a vacation is finding all the activities for you and your family to enjoy. At GO Adventures in Tamarindo, they have a bit of everything for your little ones to experience. Back at the hotel, they can run across award winning beaches, and spend the day relaxing in the sand. For those days you want to venture out, there is always an endless supply of options, and not to mention delicious food!

 

New Orleans, USA

This city is filled with a rich and vibrant history perfect for family vacations. With countless historical tours, you and your little ones can learn about the history of the South while enjoying some truly decadent dishes! Exciting excursions such as airboat tours and crocodile encounters will give your kiddos stories they’ll be anxious to share back home! For added savings, we recommend booking a home rental to avoid costly hotel fees and save some extra money by trying out your own creole recipes.

 

Vancouver, Canada

This vibrant town, just north of the border, is filled with fun and flavor! Enjoy all the best bites and adventures alongside your family at the Granville Island Public Market, and then take a walk through the Vancouver Aquarium, to watch your children learn all about Canada’s sea creatures. No matter what you and your family decide to do, you’ll be warmly greeted throughout one of the happiest cities in the world. Just be sure to remember your passport!

 

Austin & Waco, USA

These two sister towns are separated by just over 100 miles, but offer fun-filled activities in both locations. By combining the two cities for this memorable trip, your family can step on the set of Magnolia Market and savor the mouth-watering taste of Franklin Barbecue, all in one fell swoop. Austin will provide an endless list of new restaurants and tours, while Waco can set the tone for the ride home with classic family-fun that the whole clan can enjoy.

 

Wherever your summertime travels take you, Iowa State Bank is here to help safeguard you and your finances while you’re away.

 

How to Start a Garden without Splurging

Savings

Sunshine, flowering blooms, and the smell of something new, planting season is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and begin planting your summer garden. If you’re like most hobbyists, you find your plants each year at area greenhouses and nurseries searching for that perfect pop of color.  This year, Iowa State Bank challenges you to try something different and save both time and money with these helpful gardening savings hacks:

Start from Seed: Instead of purchasing six packs of blooms, enjoy entire plots of flowers at only a fraction of the cost. A packet of mixed annual seeds may run three to four dollars and can fill an entire garden with colorful and productive plants for years to come. For some varieties, you’ll want to start them indoor using seedling pots and potting soil. After a few weeks, they’ll be ready to transplant outdoors!

Direct Sow: For some heartier varieties of plants, you can skip the indoor growing and head straight to the outdoors. These cold-tolerant flowers grow best without the shock of transplant. Some great examples are sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and nasturtiums. If you’re planning on using any of your flowers for indoor arrangements, be sure to plan to direct sow succession plantings as well.

Make Your Own Compost: Natural fertilizer is composed of decomposing organic matter. Avoid paying the high cost of produced compost and create an outdoor container for all your table scraps throughout the season. Allow them to deteriorate along with grass clippings and other yard waste to make a nitrogen-rich supplement to aid your garden’s growth. This added nutrition will help your plants blossom and produce more flowers throughout the year.

Save Your Seeds: To further save on costs, learn how to collect your garden’s own seeds. After harvesting several plants, collect and dry their seeds to use for planting next year. You can save them in handmade envelopes and categorize them to easily find them each year. Typically seeds that are properly dried can be successfully planted for up to three years.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start gardening! If you have a true passion for gardening and are looking to start a small business or make some renovations to your outdoor area, our experienced team can lend a hand. We’d love to hear your next gardening goal and discover how we can help you achieve it.

The Cost of Kids: How to Plan for Your Growing Family

Family

At Iowa State Bank we understand that adding to your family may not only be an emotional decision but a financial one as well. With the growing costs of childcare alone, it’s important to have a well-rounded plan for covering the expenses of your expanding household. In order to plan most effectively, we recommend structuring your budgeting into these three stages:

 

Beginning or Before Pregnancy: Examine your current health insurance to determine an estimate of cost for both prenatal care and delivery expenses. While many insurers offer prenatal care at no or little additional cost, the price for delivery can be complex. Study your monthly premium, annual deductible, and out-of-pocket limits for the calendar year to help establish these costs before the baby is delivered.

 

After Birth: Once the baby is born, there will be traditional costs such as health care, food, diapers, clothing, and more. However, many new parents also spend more on take-out meals to help lessen their time cooking. These expenses, along with a decrease in income for parents on maternity leave, can cause many parents to slide into debt. To help alleviate the burden of these growing figures, we recommend creating a monthly budget to designate every dollar to a purpose. By allocating a specific dollar amount to each area of your spending, you can ensure that all of your costs are covered while also planning for the future.

 

During the First Year: As your child continues to grow, the costs for new clothes and equipment will continue to grow with them. Many expectant parents can spend upwards of $16,000 during the first year of their child’s life, and variables such as location, number of children, and other factors can contribute to the overall costs as well. When possible we recommend saving for each step in your child’s growth. From birth to three month’s they’ll need many one-time purchases, but during the later stages, you may have had adequate time to save for each time period’s necessities.

 

Continue to grow your finances as you grow your family using Iowa State Bank’s trusted deposit services. We’ll help you organize your funds, and make the most of your savings.

 

Student Loan PSA: What Student Debt Really Looks Like

Student Loans

Obtaining your secondary education can be a landmark goal on your journey to success. By opening up opportunities, and enhancing your capabilities, the study of a discipline gives you the skills you need to conquer your future ambitions. More often than not, student loans offer a helpful supplement when financing this experience. However, many students are able to obtain these financial aids without having to budget or offer a credit history, causing a higher likelihood of default among student borrowers. To help avoid this, Iowa State Bank suggests answering the following questions before choosing how to pay for your collegiate participation:

 

What are you starting with?

The first question you should ask yourself is, ‘What money do I have to begin my education?’ If you have applied for and received scholarships, those should first count towards tuition and books. Additionally, if you have any financial support from relatives, these funds may be allocated best at the base of your budget during your college planning. By totaling the sum of these two amounts, you can determine the support outside your own savings that will be contributed towards your future learning efforts. Knowing whether or not this amount will be offered on a recurring basis can help you then decide what financial steps you need to take in order to save, earn, and/or borrow the remaining funds necessary.

 

How much and how often can you contribute?

After learning your total amount of support, it is now possible to create a plan of action to facilitate the rest. Depending on your length and type of education, your costs may vary drastically. When selecting both a field and institution of study, the factor of price is an important one to consider. By thinking of your education as an investment, you can ensure that you choose both a rewarding and promising career path to help you repay any debt you do incur during this time. To help decrease overall expenditures, many students take on a part-time job to supplement the costs of their education, along with the associated room and board. Utilizing this choice can decrease the overall amount of your anticipated loan, and help you avoid the additional expense of interest.  Should the cost of your education still be more than you can currently cover, the option of a student loan may be a viable solution.

 

What is student debt?

While obtaining an education has potential and opportunities, the accompanying debt can often be overbearing. In order to minimize this, we recommend borrowing only the minimum amount needed. By opting for a lesser sum, you are able to save your future-self hundreds or thousands of dollars on interest alone. For example, the average debt for a United States student is approximately $37,172. With borrowers averaging ten years for repayment, the potential cost of interest alone can add up to over $9,000.

 

Choosing the best option to finance your education can affect your life well past college. To help you make the most informed decisions, our team at Iowa State Bank offers sound financial advice and information. To learn more, stop by one of our locations, we’d love to get to know you and your education aspirations.

How to Shave Thousands of Dollars off Your Mortgage

Mortgages

Congratulations on purchasing your home. You are now privileged to enjoy the thrills of home repair, maintenance, and occasional renovation. Depending on your mortgage structure, you may be paying off your home for up to thirty years. Luckily Iowa State Bank has some tips and tricks to help you reduce your repayment time. Using these three strategies, we’ll show you how to pay off more of your principal to decrease the term of your loan, and lessen your overall interest costs.

 

Method 1: Making Additional Payments

In addition to your regularly scheduled payments, making extra installments can help you knock down your principal and associated interest. These additional amounts can be paid on the same day as your scheduled portion, or they can be more frequent throughout the month as funds become available. If you find yourself having a surplus in your budget, a great option would be to use those dollars as an additional mortgage payment.

 

Method 2: Increasing Your Monthly Payments

As you make your mortgage payments each month, create a plan for how much you can add on top of your regular installments. Similar to method two, these subsequent funds will continue to help you pay down your principal amount, and lessen the amount of interest owed for the life of the loan.

 

Method 3: Making One Lump Payment

Sometimes if you’re refinancing or purchasing a home, you may be trading an old mortgage for a new one. In this case, we recommend making one large installment after closing. This not only pays off a large portion of your loan but brings your overall interest accumulation down as well.

 

Owning a home is an exciting and well-earned milestone, however, the additional costs of ownership can raise questions. If you’re curious about the most efficient way to pay down your mortgage, stop in and speak with one of our experienced lenders today.

Title: Tax Beneficial Accounts You Need to Use

Tax Beneficial Accounts

 

One of the most proactive ways you can protect your personal finances is to take advantage of tax beneficial accounts such as an HSA, 401(k) and IRA. Though these accounts are typically tied to retirement savings, this is not always the case. At Iowa State Bank we want to help you make the most of your money, by offering these three account options:

 

Health Savings Account (HSA): Currently tied to your insurance provider, this account allows you to save pre-tax income into an interest bearing account. The funds within this account can be rolled over yearly, and are meant to help supplement the cost of various medical and childcare needs. However, there are limits on how much you can save for this account, the 2017 limit for an individual is $3,400 a year, and $6,750 for a family. You can typically access these funds using a debit card or written check to cover qualifying expenses outside of your insurance offerings. Another great perk of this account is that it can be invested. To further grow your funds you can work with a financial adviser to invest in mutual funds, stock, and bonds to help your money mature.

 

Work Sponsored Retirement Account (401k): Many companies now offer this account as a corporate benefit. By automatically withdrawing pre-tax dollars from your monthly income, you are able to save for retirement before you even receive your paycheck. The funds you contribute, along with those matched by the company, can then be invested into a variety of options, pushing your money to continue multiplying. Since these funds are meant to act as retirement savings, any early withdrawals have a 10 percent penalty in addition to the income taxes due. However, once you reach age 59 ½, you can start taking regular distributions from this employer-sponsored plan.

 

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): This is a great example of a non-work sponsored retirement account. Generally offered in two versions, the Roth IRA, and the Traditional IRA, both offer various tax incentives so you get the best bang for your buck. Each account has a contribution limit of $5,500 a year, or $6,500 for those age 50 or better.

 

In a Traditional IRA, you contribute pre-tax dollars into an interest-bearing account, which can then be invested into an array of opportunities to expand growth. If you want to remove funds from this account prior to age 59 ½ however, you will incur 10 percent early-withdrawal penalty along with paying State and Federal taxes. At age 70 ½, the account requires you to begin taking minimum distributions. This retirement savings option is open to anyone, with no immediate requirements.

 

With a Roth IRA there is no age requirement for distributions, and after five years, you can withdraw as much as you like up to the total amount of contributions. The only amount you cannot withdraw is the added interest earned after contribution. The main tax benefit with a Roth IRA, opposed to the Traditional IRA, is that contributions are post-tax dollars, but distributions bear no tax. This means if you are in a higher tax bracket upon retirement, you do not have to pay additional taxes to withdraw those funds, potentially keeping more of your savings. This account option does have an income limit, which disqualifies single filers whose adjusted gross income is more than $132,000 or $194,000 for joint filers.

 

Start maximizing your money and look into your account options today! Stop by Iowa State Bank and our team can answer any questions you have. With our experienced lenders, we can help you choose the best accounts to get the most value out of your long-term savings.

5 Financially Savvy Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

Personal Finances

Getting your taxes done early not only takes one more thing off your to-do list but further allows you to start planning for the future. Working with your tax professional, determine how much your family may receive this year from a tax refund. No matter the amount, we recommend putting it towards your financial goals for the year. Here are some great strategies we’ve tried to get the best bang for our buck:

 

  1. Max out your 401(k) or Traditional IRA contributions. If you aren’t taking advantage of one of these two accounts, we highly suggest opening one soon! These tax-beneficial accounts help holders accumulate and grow their funds without the burden of tax at the time of deposit. Each account, however, is limited by how much you can contribute. By allocating funds into these account types it may not only help you save for retirement but also allow your money mature throughout the years, with no additional effort.
  2. Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loan. Paying down your loan is always a great option when selecting financial goals. In the case of a mortgage, you earn more equity as you pay, while with student loans, you gain more momentum towards financial freedom. Instead of adding money to each monthly installment, we recommend creating one lump payment. By doing this you can you create a single but large decrease in your principal amount owed, drastically reducing your associated interest as well.
  3. Save for the 2017 holiday season. While holiday events, family gatherings, and memories are held dear, the burden of the season can pose potential problems for your personal finances. If you struggled saving last year, now is the perfect time to set aside funds for the holidays. Determine how much you need to pay for each aspect of your seasonal activities, and save as much as possible in a separate account for your tax refund. If additional funds are needed, automate your savings to transfer a specific dollar amount to this account each month.
  4. Pay off outstanding credit card debt. With one of the highest interest rates, credit cards are notorious for taking years to pay off. If you want to make a dent in your debt, we recommend tackling one card at a time.  Using your tax refund, see if you can eliminate smaller debts first. Then with the remaining funds, begin your paying down each additional credit card. By paying off the card with the least amount of debt first, you can begin to snowball your way to financial freedom!
  5. Start saving for a vacation. Whether it’s a spring break, a summer adventure, or a fall festival, it’s never too early to start saving. Once you have determined a destination, then create a rough budget of the expected expense. Depending on your refund you may be able to pay for the whole trip outright, or you may need to couple the funds with some additional monthly savings. No matter how you choose to save, we recommend keeping your vacation funds in a separate deposit account so you’re not tempted to use them throughout the year.

 

If you still have questions on how to best use your tax refund, our personal bankers would love to help. At Iowa State Bank, we can assist you in using all your savings options to help make the most of your money. Stop in and see us today!

 

6 Steps to Scoring Your Savings Goal

Savings Tips

Do your savings goals make you feel frozen? Get back on the ice this season, and let Iowa State Bank help you win your personal financial game. We’ll show you how to keep pushing forward with these strategic hockey tactics:

 

Find the 5-hole.

One of the first and most important ways to save is to keep your eyes open! Whether it’s taking advantage of grocery store specials, buying household items in bulk, or cutting spending from your monthly budget, the biggest opportunity you have while saving money is continually searching for new ways to save.

 

Complete the hat-trick.

Before you start saving for the short-term items, be sure you have the long-term set in place. Just as in hockey, there are three things you need, to make the best play of the game. Start by setting up an emergency savings account, to help guard your savings. Follow up by opening a personal retirement account such as IRA, to continually grow your savings. For the last trick of the play, we suggest creating a 529 or Coverdell account to help save for your child’s future education. These three accounts will help not only you score your savings goals but will assist you in winning your entire financial game as well.

 

Put your debt against the boards.

Show your debt whose boss, and push them against the glass. By aggressively paying off your outstanding debt, you make additional funds available to further your monthly savings. We recommend paying the minimum payment on each debt, and then using any surplus funds to add extra payments to help pay it off sooner. Once you have paid off a debt, use the funds from that allocation to help erase the next obstacle, one payment at a time.

 

Place your spending in the penalty box.

While working on your savings goals, look into your monthly spending to see where you can cut costs. Consider reducing your funds for eating out and entertainment. The extra money can go towards your debt, or once paid off, can help you achieve your savings goal sooner!

To help, there are some innovative apps available that can you visualize your various expenses.

 

Beat the buzzer.

Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. Like hockey, if you don’t play until the end, you may lose the game in the last five minutes. To help prevent this, we recommend working with a personal financial adviser, ensuring your funds are in the right place at the right time. If you make a pass and transfer them to stocks too late, you could lose money and valuable time. We suggest creating a strategic and well-coordinated retirement plan to make certain all your savings get time on the ice, and your key players continue to stay in the game.

 

Drop your gloves for additional fees.

Whether it’s big banks searching for unnecessary add-ons, or potential financial advisers looking for a percentage of earnings, don’t be afraid to negotiate fees you deem excessive. The business is certain to have referees to let you know if you’re asking too much. However, it never hurts to ask!

 

With our affordable deposit accounts and expert financial coaching, we look forward to helping you sink your upcoming goal in the back of the net! Stop by and meet our dedicated team today!

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