How To Make Your Money Go Farther In 2023- Jan. ‘23
Whether the inflation spike has you feeling overspent in the past year or perhaps you recently took a pay cut, you may be looking to make financial changes in 2023. Here is a list of tips to help kick off a year to better spending.
The thought of creating a budget can be daunting. Start by using a monthly spending tracker to determine what kind of budget would work for you. There are quite a few free apps available that can help determine where your money goes each month and give you tips on where you can improve.
Automate Your Savings
If you had trouble saving in 2022, change things up now by putting money away at the beginning of each month or pay period rather than waiting to see what you have left. Make this process automatic by setting up regular transfers to your savings account and watch your money grow. If you have a Washington State Bank account, this can be set-up through Online Banking or our Mobile Banking App.
Take Steps to Improve Your Credit
Having a good credit score can mean paying lower interest rates and help you qualify for lower car insurance premiums. Having a credit card in good standings can help build credit responsibly. Be sure to make your payments in full and on time.
Invest in Yourself
In 2023 increases on income limits and contribution amounts for tax-advantaged retirement accounts like 401(k) plans and traditional and Roth IRAs are rolling out. Limits for 401(k) and similar savings plans are increasing to $22,500 in 2022 while IRA contribution limits are increasing to $6,500. Adding to these accounts now will greatly benefit your retirement outlook in the years to come. Once you’ve determined a budget, you can establish how much you are able to increase your contributions in the new year.
Find Ways to Lower Your Bills
Many budgeting apps can help point out monthly subscriptions you may have forgotten about. Cancelling these monthly charges will increase your overall cash flow. There are also some bills you may be able to adjust and lower in 2023, like your phone plan. It’s important to do your research to determine the best option for you.
This article is a summary of the following:
Farrington, Robert. “How to Make Your Money Go Farther in 2023.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Dec. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertfarrington/2022/12/28/how-to-make-your-money-go-farther-in-2023/?sh=58194c964481.
Financial New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep - Dec. '22
The New Year will be here before we know it and now is as good of a time as ever to start reviewing your finances from this past year and look for ways to improve them in 2023.
Calculate Your Net Worth
The start of a new year is a great time to determine your financial worth. After doing so, your financial goals and resolutions you need to make will become more obvious. Evaluate your assets and liabilities to help determine where to prioritize your current spending and saving and where you may need to make changes to those habits.
Assess Your Retirement Accounts
If your employer offers a 401(k) or other retirement product, consider contributing a set amount each month. Financial experts typically suggest contributing at least enough to earn any matching contribution from your employer if applicable. You should also consider contributing to an individual retirement account (IRA), if you can afford to do so. You can put money into an IRA even if you have a retirement plan at work. For more information on the different types of IRAs through Washington State Bank, contact our Trust Department.
Update Your Savings Goals
A simple way to help reach your savings goal is to transfer a designated amount from your checking account into savings. If you have a Washington State Bank account, you can simply set up an automatic transfer through Online Banking or on our Mobile Banking app. You can also reach out to your HR department to have a portion of your paycheck deposited into a separate savings account each pay period.
Pay Down Your Credit Cards
If you are heading into the near year with credit card balances, figure out how much you can afford to pay off throughout the year. Being able to pay off your credit card balance each month is a great goal to work towards. One way to achieve this would be to not charge anything else while you are working to pay them off.
Make a Plan to Pay Down Debts
Look at any personal loans, debts, or mortgage accounts you may have and see if you can adjust your payments at all to reduce your debt further. If you’re able to, paying a little extra towards principal on your mortgage payment each month will help cut down on the number of years that it will take you to pay off the loan.
Review Your Credit Score
You are entitled to three free credit reports each year. Checking your report regularly and taking steps to repair any negative aspects or mistakes is important. The official website for requesting a free credit report is AnnualCreditReport.com.
Taking the time to assess your financial goals for the New Year can get you on the right track but be cautious about setting unrealistic financial goals. Consider keeping a checklist or tracking sheet to make any modifications throughout the year, too.
This article is a summary of the following:
Schwartz, Andrew. “Financial New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 17 Nov. 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/06/newyear.asp.
Selling Used Items on Facebook? Know How to Spot a Scam - Nov. '22
Facebook Marketplace has become another Craig’s List as a quick way to sell used items online. With more than 1 billion active users, this convenient tool has also become a target for fraudsters. It’s ok to be suspicious and it’s important to know how to spot scams.
Watch for These Red Flags
While Facebook Marketplace is increasingly being targeted by scammers, transactions can be conducted safely if you know what to look for. Following are a few red flags that may indicate the person you’re dealing with is trying to commit fraud.
- Moving conversation off Facebook Messenger — A scammer may want to do this to get your phone number or other personal information. Keep the conversation on Messenger to better protect your data.
- No profile photo — When someone contacts you about an item, or you decide to reach out about an item you have your eye on, do some cyber sleuthing. Examine their profile. If there’s no profile photo, it could mean it’s not a legitimate account.
- Refusal to meet in person — If the buyer or seller refuses to meet in person to pick up or deliver the item being purchased, it should raise suspicions about their legitimacy. Always meet in public places with other people around when conducting transactions using Facebook Marketplace.
- No preview allowed — If the seller refuses to allow you to see the item before you purchase it, break off communication. You should be able to examine any second-hand item carefully before you agree to make a purchase.
- Crazy low prices — If a normally expensive and popular item is listed for an unusually low price, it’s probably a scam. Never trust anything online that appears to be too good to be true.
- Willingness to overpay- If they are willing to overpay for an item, that should be an immediate red flag. If someone offers to pay more than the agreed upon price, it’s best to end communication and report the buyer to Facebook Marketplace.
If you think your Washington State Bank account may have been compromised through an interaction on Facebook Marketplace, report it immediately by calling our customer service team at (800) 714-2287.
These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.
Can You Spot a Phishing Scam? - Oct. '22
It’s time to put scammers in their place.
Online scams aren’t so scary when you know what to look for. At Washington State Bank, we’re committed to helping you spot the scams. We’ve joined with the American Bankers Association and banks across the country in a nationwide effort to fight phishing as part of the Banks Never Ask That campaign.
These four phishing scams are full of red flags:
- Text Message: If you receive a text message from someone claiming to be your bank asking you to sign in, or offer up your personal information, it’s a scam. Banks Never Ask That.
- Email: Watch out for emails that ask you to click a suspicious link or provide personal information. The sender may claim to be someone from your bank, but it’s a scam. Banks Never Ask That.
- Phone Call: Would your bank ever call you to verify your account number? No! Banks Never Ask That. If you’re ever in doubt that the caller is legitimate, just hang up and call the bank directly at a number you trust.
- Payment Apps: Beware of text messages from someone claiming to be your bank saying your account has been hacked. The scammer may ask you to send money to a new account they’ve created for you, but that’s a scam! Banks Never Ask That.
You’ve probably seen some of these scams before. But that doesn’t stop a scammer from trying. For tips, videos, and an interactive game to help you keep phishing criminals at bay, visit www.BanksNeverAskThat.com.
Protect Your Mobile Devices from Fraud - Sep. '22
Every year, fraud is on the rise. While that fact doesn’t seem to change, the methods criminals use to commit fraud evolve with technology. In 2021, fraud attempts increased by 41%, according to a survey from NICE Actimize. Account takeover fraud in which a criminal takes ownership of an online account using stolen login information accounted for 61% of fraud committed through mobile apps. Fraud in which a credit or debit card was not present accounted for nearly 47% of fraud across all channels, according to the survey. These figures prove how important it is to stay vigilant and know how to protect yourself and your mobile devices, so you don’t become a victim of fraud.
How to Protect Yourself
Mobile devices provide convenience and have become something many of us rely upon daily. Cybercriminals have also seized upon this convenience as a way to commit fraud. Consider the following tips to protect your devices.
- Watch for phishing attacks. Cybercriminals will try to steal your personal information to gain access to your accounts through phishing emails and text messages. Be suspicious of any communication requesting you to provide personal information, especially if the communication attempts to induce panic or threaten you into making a hasty decision.
- Avoid links and attachments. Clicking on links and attachments in phishing emails and text messages may cause you to unknowingly download malware on your device, which could give cybercriminals access to your device and accounts. If you receive an email and are unsure if it is legitimate, contact the company the message claims to be representing to verify its authenticity.
- Keep personal information private. Never share personal or account information with someone online or over the phone.
- Keep your mobile device updated. The operating systems on mobile devices are updated regularly to provide new features and keep your device secure. Cybercriminals will target devices using old operating systems that aren’t as well protected.
- Be cautious using common payment apps. Before you send a payment to anyone through a popular payment app like Venmo or PayPal, confirm you have their correct account information. You can securely send money to a friend or pay your bills using the pay feature in the WSB Mobile Banking App.
- Watch your accounts. Check your accounts frequently for transactions you don’t recognize. If you see any, report them to your bank immediately.
- Change your passwords. Update the passwords on your online accounts and activate two-factor authentication to give your accounts an extra layer of protection, where available.
- Check your credit report. It’s good practice to check your credit report once a year to make sure everything is accurate. You can obtain your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
If you believe you are a victim of fraud, contact WSB to report the issue. We can help review your accounts for fraudulent transactions and provide instruction on further steps to take.
These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.
Five Financial Tips for College Students - Aug. '22
College students might struggle with their finances, but this can potentially be the perfect time for young adults to learn financial responsibility. To help, we’ve providing five tips students can use to improve their personal finances while away at school.
- Find a side hustle — To offset some college costs, students can get part-time jobs to create a stream of income. If you can balance your course schedule with a part-time job, you can pay down or pay off debts while having some spending cash or save for the future. Start by seeing if your school has a work-study program that you can take advantage of or find a paid internship to jump-start your career.
- Use a budget — Managing your money can be challenging. Creating a budget can make it easier. Start by figuring out your fixed costs, like housing bills and streaming subscriptions, or by setting aside money for groceries or going out. Use notebooks, spreadsheets, or apps to help you keep track of how much money you have to spend on these different categories.
- Apply for scholarships — One great way to lessen the cost of education is to apply for scholarships and grants. These can decrease the stress of financial burden for the future. Typically, scholarships have requirements you’ll need to fulfill, so be sure to read the fine print before applying.
- Student loans — If scholarships and grants don’t pan out or aren’t enough, student loans are another option to pay for your education. It’s very common to take out federal or personal student loans but be sure to compare rates and ask for help from experts.
- Credit card responsibility and benefits — Opening a credit card in college can help you build your credit score for big purchases later in life. Before opening a credit card, compare different cards to find the best one that fits your needs. You should compare different attributes like interest rates, rewards points and APRs to find the best fit. Remember to always pay your bills on time and avoid maxing out your card. If you set up a solid payment plan, you can build a good credit score and good money habits. Click here to learn more about a Consumer Credit Card from WSB.
5 Tips for Home Buyers - July '22
The Ins and Outs of Elder Abuse Scams – June ‘22
Unfortunately, older adults are easily targeted for financial exploitation scams because they tend to possess more wealth than other victims. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, roughly 20 percent of older Americans fall prey to financial exploitation, losing on average $120,000. The COVID-19 pandemic has made these problems even worse. Scam artists are coming out of the woodwork. In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15th), here are a few scams to be aware of and tips to avoid becoming a victim.
Phishing and Internet Fraud
Con artists use fake internet addresses to send phony emails and texts to trick consumers into clicking on bogus links alleging things like account suspensions, credit card or bank account problems, online shopping order concerns, or issues with a particular program. When these links are clicked, the victim inadvertently downloads malware on their computer, exposing their personal information to the scammer. Many of these messages contain realistic looking logos to lure their victims in. To limit your exposure, avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails or texts. If you suspect a problem with an account, contact the bank or service provider directly.
Phone scams are just as common as text and email scams. Scam artists are continuing to prey on older adults posing as someone they are not over the phone. Three notable examples are:
- The pigeon drop: con artists pretend to share found money in exchange for a “good faith” payment drawn from your bank account.
- The fake accident/arrested ploy: con artists pose as a loved one who has been injured in an accident or has been arrested and needs money for medical expenses or bail.
- Charity scams: con artists solicit funds on behalf of a charity for which they are not affiliated with or is not legit.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. If you want to give to a charity, go directly to the source. In the same manner, if you are worried about a family member or friends wellbeing, verify the information with them directly or another point of contact.
Scams are constantly changing and next year there will be a new set of schemes out there. The Federal Trade Commission has a “scam alert” page with information about the ever-changing ways that scam artists target consumers, at consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.
Washington State Bank employees are also trained in fraud prevention. We can help you spot potential scams and take appropriate measures to protect your account if you suspect you have been a victim of financial fraud. Click here to find each branch’s contact information.
Five Financial Tips for Vacation Planning- May '22
Spring is here and summer is just around the corner, making this an ideal time to start thinking about summer vacation plans! Finding a vacation you can afford as well as enjoy can be tricky but with a little planning, it’s possible to not break your budget on your summer travels.
Following are five tips you can use to make your vacation affordable and relaxing.
- Set a budget. With anything related to finances, budgeting is critical. Do some research online to come up with an estimate of what your vacation will cost. This amount will be your budget. Once you have settled on that amount, stick to it. Be leery of adding new activities that will derail your budget.
- Start a savings account specifically for vacations. Contact Washington State Bank to set up a specific savings account for your vacation budget. With these savings out of sight and out of mind, you know your vacation funds are available when it’s time for your trip. Determine how much you need to set aside each month and make it a habit to contribute that amount to build up your savings. After your trip, keep contributing to your vacation savings account to get a head start on next year’s travel plans.
- Cut back on spending before your trip. About three months before your trip, take a look at what you can temporarily cut out of your budget that will help you save for your trip. Entertainment expenses are a key category where you can find some last-minute savings. Whether you eat out less during those three months, skip the extra coffee runs or put off seeing a few new movies at the theater, the savings can add up quickly.
- Use prepaid travel cards, gift cards, or a credit card. Once you have your vacation savings built up, consider loading those funds on a prepaid card which can help you stay on budget by keeping your vacation spending separate from your funds for monthly bills and living expenses. If you have a rewards credit card, you may be able to earn cash back on your trip, and still pay off the full balance from the money you set aside in your savings.
- Monitor your accounts. Notify your debit and credit card issuers of your travel plans to prevent valid transactions from being blocked or declined as suspicious. And continue to monitor your account transactional activity through our Online Banking and Mobile Banking so you can notify us timely if something happens to your account.
These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.
6 Tips for Teaching Children to Save Money – April ‘22
In recognition of Financial Literacy month, this edition of WSB Banknote is dedicated to teaching children to save money at an early age. It’s important for kids to understand the delayed gratification one can feel after putting money aside for future expenses or wants.
- Discuss Wants vs. Needs
Helping children differentiate between a want and a need are critical when it comes to saving money. Explain that the wants are all the extra things in life, such as video games, trips, or a new bike and needs are things like food, shelter, basic clothing, healthcare, and education. Once a child has discovered the difference between the two, it makes it much easier for them to understand the importance of saving money.
- Set Savings Goals
To a child, saving money for the future can seem pointless. Creating small goals for them to save money towards things they want to buy can be very motivational. For instance, if a child decides they want to buy a new toy, help them create small goals to save up for that. If they receive an allowance each week, how long will it take them to have enough money to purchase the toy?
- Provide a Place to Save
Once your children have goals in place, they will need a safe place to keep their cash. Younger kids may prefer a piggy bank, but once they are a little older consider bringing them into your nearest Washington State Bank branch to open their very own savings account. WSB offers a variety of saving account options, including a Student Savings Account that doesn’t have a minimum balance and no service charges for anyone under the age of 23.*
- Help Them Track Their Spending
Knowing where your money goes is part of being better at saving. If your child gets an allowance or has money to set aside from holidays, have them write down their earnings versus spending. This can truly be an eye opening experience. Discuss how changing their spending habits could increase their saving ratio and put them closer to reaching their goals.
- Talk About Money
Some parents find it difficult to talk about finances with their children but starting the discussion can help them see how saving money can benefit them in their adult life. Consider making it a point to talk about money on a daily, weekly, or monthly routine. Discussing healthy money habits can set a child up for a bright financial future.
- Set a Good Example
Studies have shown that many parents do not have money set aside for retirement or even an emergency fund. It’s hard to teach children to save money if they don’t physically see it being done by the adults in their life. Taking steps like opening an IRA, increasing your 401(k) contributions, starting an emergency savings fund, or even putting money aside towards a family vacation can turn saving money into an activity everyone can participate in.
*A Washington State Bank Student Savings Account has a minimum account opening balance of $10. For more information on our Savings Accounts, visit our webpage.
These tips are a summary of the following article:
Lake, Rebecca. “10 Tips to Teach Your Children to Save Money.” Edited by Margaret James, Investopedia, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/10-tips-teach-your-child-save/.
Tips to Improve Your Credit Score – March ‘22
What makes up a credit score? Credit scores are based on a variety of factors including payment history, amounts owed/debt and your length of credit history to name a few. In most cases there is no speedy way to improve a low score, there are some things that can make a big impact over time.
If you’re preparing to apply for a mortgage or other type of loan, chances are you want the best interest rate possible. To obtain a low rate, you will need a high credit score. Think yours could use some finetuning? As part of Credit Education Month, we’ve gathered some helpful tips to earning a healthy credit report.
- Check Your Reports for Accuracy
Credit reporting agencies like Experian, TransUnion and Equifax gather your credit information from places like banks, credit card companies, and even utility companies. Their goal is to give and collect accurate information, but an FTC study found that 26% of participants had a potentially substantial error in one of their credit reports. First, confirm that all accounts and negative marks on your report belong to you by checking your free annual report at annualcreditreport.com. If you notice something is incorrect, file a dispute with the reporting agency and the business associated with the incorrect information.
- Always Pay Your Bills on Time
Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO credit score. Even if you have a high score and have a 30 day late payment, this could result in your score dropping 90 to 110 points according to Equifax. While the significance of the negative mark will decrease with time, late or “delinquent” payments will stay on your report for 7 years. If you have missed a payment in the past or want to avoid putting your score at risk, consider putting all recurring bills on auto-pay and set reminders for other accounts. You can easily set up recurring payments to vendors using Bill Pay within Online Banking.
- Manage Your Credit Utilization
The second most significant factor in a credit score is the amount of debt. This utilization makes up 30% of a FICO credit score. According to Forbes, “credit utilization is the amount of debt outstanding on your revolving credit sources like credit cards or home equity lines in relation to your available credit”. This is commonly recommended to stay below 30% of your available credit. You can control your credit utilization by paying down revolving debt and paying more than once in a billing cycle. This may lower the balance that is reported.
- Get a Credit Card if You Don’t Have One
While credit cards can have a negative effect on your score when used irresponsibly, they are also one of the fastest ways to improve your credit score when used wisely. When you sign up for a credit card and make timely payments each month, you build a positive payment history. If you also keep the spending on the card low, you create a low utilization ratio. If you are worried about overspending with a credit card, consider one with no annual fee and use it only for a few recurring expenses. You’ll be building up your credit history quickly and won’t need to worry about missing a payment or stacking up a large bill.
Finally, don’t expect changes to happen overnight. Doing things like disputing errors or paying down debt can result in a higher score in the short term, improving your credit score is a long-term process and can take months to do. Continue to check your credit reports, pay your bills on time, make payments to your revolving debt, and you will slowly see the improvements.
This article is a summary of the following:
Brennan, Chelsea. How to Improve Your Credit Score, Forbes Advisor. April 2021. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/credit-score/how-to-improve-credit-score/
Be Prepared This Tax Season- February '22
With a new year upon us, it’s time to start preparing to file your income taxes.
Filing Your Own vs. Hiring a Professional
Once you have collected all documents — Social Security documents, income statements, tax deduction records, expense receipts — it’s time to determine whether you will file your own taxes or hire an accountant. The answer depends on the individual.
If you are single with one source of income and rent an apartment, you may be able to either file them yourself or through one of the many tax preparation websites available today. If you are married with children, own a home, and have multiple investments, hiring an accountant may be the best idea.
There are many positives to hiring a tax professional. They can help you file your taxes accurately and on time and discover tax deductions and credits for which you are eligible. Hiring a tax preparer, however, can be expensive. Using a credible tax preparation website is generally more affordable. Many are intuitive and review your returns for potential mistakes, which can give you peace of mind. The choice depends on your comfort level and the complexity of your return.
When to File Your Taxes
When filing income taxes, you can start working on them as soon as you have all necessary documents. Once you have all necessary tax forms, you can either give them to your tax preparer or start working on your return. With income taxes, the most important date to remember is April 15, 2022 — the deadline for filing tax returns and making tax payments. If you need an extension, April 18 is the date by which you should submit an individual tax return extension form. Additionally, this is the last day you can make individual retirement account (IRA) contributions for the 2021 tax year.
Key Things to Consider in 2022
Every year, there are changes to income tax laws, including new tax credits and deductions that are available to taxpayers. This year is no different. Key changes for 2022 include:
- The standard deduction increased to $12,550 for single filers and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly.
- Income tax brackets increased for inflation.
- The Child Tax Credit increased to $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each child age 6 to 17. If you’re eligible for this tax credit — unless you opted to receive the full credit at tax time — you’ve been receiving a portion of the credit through payments from the IRS since July 2021.
There are many other deductions and tax credits you may be eligible to claim, including charitable, medical, and business deductions, the Earned Income Tax Credit and education tax credits. Be sure to discuss these with your adviser before you file your tax return.
Protect Your Identity
As always, it’s important to beware of IRS impersonation scams this tax season. These involve phone calls or emails from someone claiming to work for the IRS. They may tell you that there is an issue with your tax return or that they need to update tax filing information. Be wary of any emails, phone calls or text messages telling you something is wrong with your tax return. If you are worried there is an issue with your return, contact the IRS directly, and be sure to report any tax-related phishing attempts to phishing@IRS.gov.
This article was provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.